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MiWX' 




CELEBRATED SPEECHES 



OF 



CHATHAM, BURKE, AND ERSKINE. 



TO WHICH IS ADDED, 



THE ARGUMENT OF MR. MACKINTOSH, 



IN THE CASE OF PELTIER. 



SELECTED BY A 



MEMBER OF THE PHILADELPHIA BAR. 



tulit eloquium insolitum facundia praeceps; 



Utiliumqu'e sagax'rei'um et divina futuri 
Sortilegis non discrepuit sententia Delphis. 



KEY & BIDDLE— 23 MINOR STREET. 
1834. 






/35^ 



f Sf- 



Entered according to the act of congress, in the year 1834, by Key & 
BiBDu;, in the clerk's office of the district court, for the eastern district 
of Pennsylvania. 



//•/f 



PREFACE. 



In selecting the Speeches contained in the following 
pages, the compiler has been influenced by two con- 
siderations, the one having reference solely to their 
literary merit, the other to the dignity and importance 
of the topics of which they treat. 

In a country where almost every citizen has occa- 
sion^ at some period, to express his sentiments in a 
public assembly, the diffusion of correct models for 
popular and deliberative oratory is eminently desirable. 
Native force, unassisted by judgment and taste, like a 
projectile ill-directed, not only falls short of its aim, 
but becomes a useless and dangerous missile. No man 
is born an orator — no man is even fashioned into a 
judicious and impressive speaker without a certain 
amount of study and training. The efforts of an un- 
schooled and fervid imagination, spurning and over- 
leaping the boundaries of good sense and propriety, 
may arouse the passions and obtain the applause of 
the unreflecting ; but it is to " the words of truth and 
soberness," sustained and elevated by a cultivated 
mind and chastened fancy, that men give the name 
and the praise of eloquence. It should ever be recol- 
lected that oratory is peculiarly an art, perfected only, 
according to the ancients, by the knowledge and prac- 
tice of almost every other, and the mere physics of 
which, — "the eloquence of the body," as Quintilian 
phrases it, — were with them a subject of intense appli- 
cation. If the improved state of popular education 
renders that branch of study less important to a mod- 
ern speaker, it, at the same time, enhances the neces- 
sity of increased attention to that which is purely in- 
tellectual. While the "fierce democracy" of Athens 



iv PREFACE. 

were sterner critics in accent and gesture, the Ameri- 
can people more rigidly insist that their understandings 
shall be convinced, their taste consulted, and their 
minds enlightened. 

There is doubtless some reason in the strictures 
which have been advanced upon the character of our 
legislative debates. They are, for the most part, pro- 
lix and tedious on the one hand, or tumid and extrava- 
gant on the other — in either case, they are superficial 
and discursive. These defects may in part be at- 
tributed to the republican principles and forms which 
predominate in our Constitution and laws. We have 
no professional legislators, and, with the exception of 
a single class, few practised speakers ; 

-Veniet de plebe togata 



Qui juris nodos, et legutn eenigmata solvat." 

Habits of condensed thought and expression are not 
acquired in a day, nor are the pursuits of active life al- 
ways consistent with that intellectual training which best 
makes men apt speakers by first making them close 
thinkers. So far as this and similar evils are incident 
to our poHtical system, we submit to them as more 
than counterbalanced by the practical equality and 
freedom of our institutions. But a vicious style and 
defective method can be inherent in no form of gov- 
ernment, since they result less from a deficiency of 
power than from a depressed Hterary standard. It is 
to elevate this standard, to bring the American reader 
into familiar and accurate acquaintance with the best 
examples of EngHsh eloquence, to show him with 
what skill and eflfect his language has been wielded for 
the various purposes of attack and defence, of argu- 
ment and invective, of satire and eulogium, and there- 
by to raise, refine, and purify the national taste, already 
highly improved, that the present collection has been 
undertaken and will be prosecuted. 

This and a succeeding volume, (to be compiled prin- 
cipally from the works of Fox, Pitt, and Sheridan,) will 



PREFACE. V 

contain, though not precisely in a chronological series, 
as many of the more distinguished efforts of the lead- 
ers of the British Parhament, from the commencement 
of the American war to the treaty of Amiens, as their 
limits will admit. The collection will also include 
some of the popular and forensic addresses of the 
same period, and will be followed by a selection from 
the speeches of Mr. Canning, Lord Brougham, and 
others, by which the work will be completed to the 
present time. In regard to the period first alluded to, 
we know of none in English history more capable of 
affording instruction to an American citizen, whether 
we consider the magnitude of the topics discussed or 
the energy of intellect and extent of erudition applied 
to their consideration. The assertion of those free 
principles, the denial of which dismembered one an- 
cient government and dissolved another, was nowhere 
louder than in the British Parliament ; and the defence 
of personal rights, political, civil, and religious, was no- 
where manlier, though elsewhere perhaps more suc- 
cessful, than in the British courts. It is not our busi- 
ness here to arraign motives ; perhaps in the acrimo- 
nious contests of that day, the difference was, often, 
less about principles than about their application. Cer- 
tain it is that we may reap benefit from a collision, in 
which institutions were assailed, on the one side, by 
genius prompted by lofty purpose and upheld by high 
ambition, and defended on the other by all the resources 
which power could enlist from learning, zeal, and 
patriotism. The basis of civil government, the rights 
of the subject, and the prerogative of the ruler, hung 
upon men's tongues, not as matters of fanciful and idle 
theory, but in direct reference to the fate of the em- 
pire and the preservation of its laws and Constitution. 
Of a scarcely less important character, though of 
more restricted interest, were the various questions 
which arose during this period in relation to the affairs 
of India and Ireland, and the principles which charac- 
terized the financial system of Mr. Pitt. Growing out 



vi PREFACE. 

of the first of these, we must be permitted to mention 
the Impeachment of Hastings as unrivalled in the pe- 
culiar solemnity of its theme, the dignity with which 
its forms were conducted, and the labor, talent, and 
eloquence which distinguished its prosecution. The 
arguments of the more prominent managers of that 
Impeachment,-"conspicu8e divina Philippica famae,"- 
cannot but occupy a large space in a collection like 
the present, and, while the language lasts, will exhibit, 
in the highest degree, the compatibility of grace with 
strength, the union of the loftiest flights of the imagi- 
nation with the noblest efforts of the reason. 

Such are the principal sources whence the contents 
of these volumes have been drawn. The nature of the 
undertaking precludes novelty ; but, while it offers little 
that is new, it contains, at the same time, nothing that 
is low, mean, or unworthy. It exhibits the works of 
genius on a conspicuous theatre, aiming at noble ends 
and laboring for immortality. If it cannot teach us 
better to appreciate the rights which we enjoy, there 
are few of us but may learn from it in what manner 
they may best be defended against the inroads of 
power or the intrusions of ambition. 



CONTENTS. 



LORD CHATHAM. 

Speech of William Pitt the elder, (afterwards Lord Chatham,) in the 
House of Commons, January 16, 1766, on the right to tax America, Page 9 

Lord Chatham's Speech, in the House of Lords, January 9, 1770, in 
reply to Lord Mansfield, on an amendment to the address to the throne, 17 

Lord Chatham's Speech, in the House of Lords, January 20, 1775, on 
a motion for an Address to his Majesty, to give immediate orders for 
removing his Troops from Boston, 26 

Lord Chatham's Speech, in the House of Lords, at the opening of Par- 
liament, November 18, 1777, 34 

Lord Chatham's Speech, in the House of Lords, December 11, 1777, 
against a Motion for an Adjournment, 44 

BURKE. 
Mr. Burke's Speech, on American Taxation, April 19, 1774, - - - - 50 

Mr. Burke's Speech, to the Electors of Bristol, 96 

Mr. Burke's Speech, on the Nabob of Arcot's Debts, 130 

Mr. Burke's Speech, on the Bill for the relief of Protestant Dissenters, 184 
Extract from the Speech of Mr. Burke, upon Mr. Fox's East India Bill, 194 
Extract from the Speech of Mr. Burke, on opening the Impeachment of 
Warren Hastings, Esq., February 15 and 16, 1788, 237 

ERSKINE. 
Mr. Erskine's Speech, in Defence of the Liberty of the Press, delivered 

on the Trial of Thomas Paine for a Libel, 327 

Speech of the Hon. T. Erskine, on the Prosecution of the Publisher of 

the Age of Reason, 354 

Mr. Erskine's Speech, in Markham vs. Fawcett, before the Deputy 
Sheriff of Middlesex and a special Jury, upon an Inquisition of Damages, 365 

Mr. Erskine's Speech, for the Defendant in the Case of Howard vs. 
Bingham, ---- 378 

Mr. Erskine's Speech, in Defence of Thomas Hardy, indicted for high 
Treason in compassing the Death of the King, 387 

M'INTOSH. 
Speech of Mr. M'Intosh, (since Sir James M'Intosh,) in the Court of 
King's Bench, February 21, 1803, on the Trial of M. Peltier for a 
Libel on the First Consul of the French Republic. 496 



SPEECH OF WILLIAM PITT, 

THE ELDER, 

(AFTERWARDS LORD CHATHAM,) 

IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, JANUARY 16, 1776, ON THE RIGHT 
TO TAX AMERICA. 



Mr. Speaker, 

I CAME to town but-to day. I was a stranger to the tenor 
of his majesty's speech, and the proposed address, till I heard 
them read in this house. Unconnected and unconsulted, I have 
not the means of information. I am fearful of offending through 
mistake, and therefore beg to be indulged with a second read- 
ing of the proposed address. I commend the king's speech, 
and approve of the address in answer ; as it decides nothing, 
every gentleman being left at perfect liberty to take such a 
part concerning America, as he might afterwards see fit. One 
word only I cannot approve of — an early, is a word that does 
not belong to the notice the ministry have given to parliament 
of the troubles in America. In a matter of such importance, 
the communication ought to have been immediate. I speak 
not with respect to parties. I stand up in this place single and 
independent. As to the late ministry, every capital measure 
they have taken, has been entirely wrong ! 

As to the present gentlemen, to those at least whom I have 
in my eye, I have no objection. I have never been made a 
sacrifice by any of them. Their characters are fair; and I 
am always glad when men of fair character engage in his 
majesty's service. Some of them did me the honor to ask my 
opinion before they would engage. These will now do me 
the justice to own, I advised them to do it ; but, notwithstand- 
ing, to be expHcit, I cannot give them my confidence. Pardon 
me, gentlemen, confidence is a plant of slow growth in an aged 
bosom. Youth is the season of creduHty. By comparing 

B 



10 MR. PITT'S SPEECH ON 

events with each other, reasoning from effects to causes, 
methinks I plainly discover the traces of an overruHng influ- 
ence. 

There is a clause in the act of settlement to oblige every minis- 
ter to sign his name to the advice which he gives to his sovereign. 
Would it were observed ! — I have had the honor to serve the 
crown, and if I could have submitted to influence, I might 
have still continued to serve : but I would not be responsible 
for others. I have no local attachments. It is indifferent to me 
whether a man was rocked in his cradle on this side or that 
side of the Tweed. I sought for merit wherever it was to be 
found. It is my boast, that I was the first minister who looked 
for it, and I found it in the mountains of the North. I called it 
forth, and drew it into your service, a hardy and intrepid race 
of men ! men, who, when left by your jealousy, became a prey 
to the artifices of your enemies, and had gone nigh to have 
overturned the state in the war before the last. These men, 
in the last war, were brought to combat on your side ; they 
served with fidelity, as they fought with valor, and conquered 
for you in every part of the world. Detested be the national 
reflections against them ! They are unjust, groundless, illiberal, 
unmanly. When I ceased to serve his majesty as a minister, 
it was not the country of the man by which I was moved — but 
the man of that country wanted wisdom, and held principles 
incompatible vj'iXh freedom. 

It is a long time, Mr. Speaker, ^ince I have attended in par- 
liament. When the resolution was taken in this house to tax 
America, I was ill in bed. If I could have endured to have 
been carried in my bed, so great was the agitation of my mind 
for the consequences, I would have solicited some kind hand 
to have laid me down on this floor, to have borne my testimony 
against it ! It is now an act that has passed. I would speak 
with decency of every act of this house : but I must beg the 
indulgence of the house to speak of it with freedom. 

I hope a day may be soon appointed to consider the state of 
the nation with respect to America. I hope gentlemen will 
come to this debate with all the temper and impartiality that 
his majesty recommends and the importance of the subject 
requires. A subject of greater importance than ever engaged 
the attention of this house ! that subject only excepted, when, 
near a century ago, it was the question, whether you your- 
selves were to be bond or free. In the mean time, as I can- 
not depend upon my health for any future day, such is the 
nature of my infirmities, I will beg to say a few words at 



AMERICAN TAXATION. 1 1 

present, leaving the justice, the equity, the policy, the expedi- 
ency of the act, to another time. I will only speak to one 
point, a point which seems not to have been generally under- 
stood. I mean to the right. Some gentlemen seem to have 
considered it as a point of honor. If gentlemen consider it in 
that light, they leave all measures of right and wrong, to follow 
a delusion that may lead to destruction. It is my opinion, that 
this kingdom has no right to lay a tax upon the colonies. At 
the same time, I assert the authority of this kingdom over the 
colonies, to be sovereign and supreme, in every circumstance 
of government and legislation whatsoever. They are the sub- 
jects of this kingdom, equally entitled with yourselves to all 
the natural rights of mankind and the peculiar privileges of 
Englishmen ; equally bound by its laws, and equall)^ partici- 
pating of the constitution of this free country. The Americans 
are the sons, not the bastards of England. Taxation is no 
part of the governing or legislative power. The taxes are a 
voluntary gift and grant of the commons alone. In legislation 
the three estates of the realm are alike concerned, but the con- 
currence of the peers and the crown to tax, is only necessary 
to close with the form of a law. The gift and grant is of the 
commons alone. In ancient days, the crown, the barons, and 
the clergy, possessed the lands. In those days, the barons and 
the clergy gave and granted to the crown. They gave and 
granted what was their own. At present, since the discovery 
of America, and other circumstances permitting, the commons 
are become the proprietors of the land. The church, God 
bless it, has but a pittance. The property of the lords, com- 
pared with that of the commons, is as a drop of water in the 
ocean ; and this house represents those commons, the proprie- 
tors of the lands ; and those proprietors virtually represent the 
rest of the inhabitants. When, therefore, in this house we give 
and grant, we give and grant what is our own. But in an 
American tax, what do we do ? We your majesty's commons 
for Great Britain give and grant to your majesty, what ? Our 
own property ? No. We give and grant to your majesty, the 
property of your majesty's commons of America. It is an 
absurdity in terms. 

The distinction between legislation and taxation is essentially 
necessary to liberty. The crown, the peers, are equally legis- 
lative powers with the commons. If taxation be a part of 
simple legislation, the crown, the peers have rights in taxation 
as well as yourselves; rights which they will claim, which 
they will exercise, whenever the principle can be supported by 
power. 

There is an idea in some, that the colonies are virtually re- 



12 MR. PITT'S SPEECH ON 

presented in the house. I would fain know by whom an Ame- 
rican is represented here ? Is he represented by any knight of 
the shire, in any county in this kingdom ? Would to God that 
respectable representation was augmented to a greater number! 
Or will you tell him that he is represented by any representative 
of a borough — a borough which, perhaps, its own representa- 
tives never saw. This is what is called the rotten part of the 
constitution. It cannot continue a century. If it does not drop, 
it must be amputated. The idea of a virtual representation of 
America in this house is the most contemptible idea that ever 
entered into the head of a man. It does not deserve a serious 
refutation. 

The commons of America, represented in their several as- 
semblies, have ever been in possession of the exercise of this, 
their constitutional right, of giving and granting their own 
money. They would have been slaves if they had not enjoyed 
it. At the same time, this kingdom, as the supreme governing 
and legislative power, has always bound the colonies by her 
laws, by her regulations, and restrictions in trade, in navigation, 
in manufactures, in every thing, except that of taking their mo- 
ney out of their pockets without their consent. 

Here I would draw the line, 

Quam ultra citraque neque consistere rectum. 

Gentlemen, Sir, have been charged with giving birth to 
sedition in America. They have spoken their sentiments with 
freedom against this unhappy act, and that freedom has become 
their crime. Sorry I am to hear the liberty of speech in this 
house imputed as a crime. But the imputation shall not dis- 
courage me. It is a liberty I mean to exercise. No gentleman 
ought to be afraid to exercise it. It is a hberty by which the 
gentleman who calumniates it might have profited. He ought 
to have desisted from his project. The gentleman tells us, 
America is obstinate ; America is almost in open rebellion. I 
rejoice that America has resisted. Three millions of people, 
so dead to all the feelings of liberty as voluntarily to submit to 
be slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the 
rest. I come not here armed at all points, with law cases and 
acts of parliament, with the statute book doubled down in dog's 
ears, to defend the cause of liberty : if I had, I myself would 
have cited the two cases of Chester and Durham. I would 
have cited them, to have shown that, even under former arbi- 
trary reigns, parliaments were ashamed of taxing a people with- 
out their consent; and allowed them representatives. Why 



AMERICAN TAXATION. • 13 

did the gentleman confine himself to Chester and Durham ? He 
might have taken a higher example in Wales ; Wales, that never 
was taxed by parhament till it was incorporated. I would not 
debate a particular point of law with the gentleman. I know 
his abilities. I have been obliged to his diligent researches. 
But, for the defence of liberty, upon a general principle, upon 
a constitutional principle, it is a ground on which I stand firm ; 
on which I dare meet any man. The gentleman tells us of 
many who are taxed, and are not represented; — the India 
company, merchants, stockholders, manufacturers. Surely 
many of these are represented in other capacities, as owners 
of land, or as freemen of boroughs. It is a misfortune that 
more are not equally represented. But they are all inhabitants, 
and as such are they not virtually represented ? Many have it 
in their option to be actually represented. They have con- 
nexions with those that elect, and they have influence over 
them. The gentleman mentioned the stockholders. I hope he 
does not reckon the debts of the nation as a part of the national 
estate. Since the accession of king Wilham, many ministers, 
some of great, others of more moderate abilities, have taken 
the lead of government. 

He then went through the list of them, bringing it down till 
he came to himself, giving a short sketch of the characters of 
each of them. None of these, he said, thought or ever dreamed 
of robbing the colonies of their constitutional rights. That 
was reserved to mark the era of the late administration : not 
that there were wanting some, when I had the honor to serve 
his majesty, to propose to me to burn my fingers with an Ame- 
rican stamp act. With the enemy at their back, with our 
bayonets at their breasts, in the day of their distress, perhaps 
the Americans would have submitted to the imposition ; but it 
would have been taking an ungenerous, an unjust advantage. 
The gentleman boasts of his bounties to America ! Are not 
these bounties intended finally for the benefit of this kingdom 1 
If they are not, he has misapphed the national treasures. I am 
no courtier of America. I stand up for this kingdom. I 
maintain that the parhament has a right to bind, to restrain 
America. 

Our legislative power over the colonies is sovereign and su- 
preme. When it ceases to be sovereign and supreme, I would 
advise every gentleman to sell his lands, if he can, and embark 
for that country. When two countries are connected together 
like England and her colonies without being incorporated, the 
one must necessarily govern. The greater must rule the less ; 
but so rule it, as not to contradict the fundamental principles 
that are common to both. 

2 



14 MR. PITT'S SPEECH ON 

If the gentleman does not understand the difference between 
external and internal taxes, I cannot help it ; but there is a plain 
distinction between taxes levied for the purposes of raising a 
revenue, and duties imposed for the regulation of trade, for the 
accommodation of the subject ; although, in the consequences, 
some revenue might incidentally arise from the latter. 

The gentleman asks, when were the colonies emancipated 1 
But I desire to know, when were they made slaves ? But I dwell 
not upon words. When I had the honor of serving his majesty, 
I availed myself of the means of information, which I derived 
from my office. I speak therefore from knowledge. My ma- 
terials were good. I was at pains to collect, to digest, to con- 
sider them ; and I will be bold to affirm, that the profits to Great 
Britain from the trade of the colonies, through all its branches, 
is two milhons a year. This is the fund that carried you 
triumphantly through the last war. The estates that were rent- 
ed at two thousand pounds a year, three-score years ago, are 
at three thousand at present. Those estates sold then from 
fifteen to eighteen years' purchase ; the same may now be sold 
for thirty. 

You owe this to America. This is the price America pays 
you for her protection. And shall a miserable financier come 
with a boast, that he can bring a pepper-corn into the exche- 
quer, to the loss of millions to the nation ! I dare not say, how 
much higher these profits may be augmented. Omitting the im- 
mense increase of people, by natural population, in the northern 
colonies, and the emigration from every part of Europe, I am 
convinced the commercial system of America may be altered 
to advantage. You have prohibited where you ought to have 
encouraged : you have encouraged where you ought to have 
prohibited. Improper restraints have been laid on the continent, 
in favor of the islands. You have but two nations to trade 
with in America. Would you had twenty ! Let acts of par- 
liament in consequence of treaties remain ; but let not an English 
minister become a custom-house officer for Spain, or for any 
foreign power. Much is wrong. Much may be amended for 
the general good of the whole. 

Does the gentleman complain he has been misrepresented in 
the public prints ? It is a common misfortune. In the Spanish 
affair of the last war, I was abused in all the newspapers, for 
having advised his majesty to violate the laws of nations with 
regard to Spain. The abuse was industriously circulated even 
in handbills. If administration did not propagate the abuse, 
administration never contradicted it. I will not say what ad- 
vice I did give the king. My advice is in writing, signed by 
myself, in the possession of the crown. But I will say what 



AMERICAN TAXATION. 15 

advice I did not give to the king. I did not advise him to vio- 
late any of the laws of nations. 

As to the report of the gentleman's preventing in some way 
the trade for buUion with the Spaniards, it was spoken of so 
confidently that I own I am one of those who did believe it to 
be true. 

The gentleman must not wonder he was not contradicted, 
when, as the minister, he asserted the right of parliament to 
tax America. I know not how it is, but there is a modesty in 
this house which does not choose to contradict a minister. Even 
your chair, sir, looks too often towards St. James's. I wish 
gentlemen would get the better of this modesty. If they do 
not, perhaps the collective body may begin to abate of its re- 
spect for the representative. Lord Bacon has told me, that a 
great question would not fail of being agitated at one time or 
another. I was willing to agitate that at the proper season, the 
German war : — my German war, they called it. Every sessions 
I called out. Has anybody any objection to the German war ? 
Nobody would object to it, one gentleman only excepted, since 
removed to the upper house by succession to an ancient barony 
(meaning lord Le Despencer, formerly Sir Francis Dashwood.) 
He told me, " He did not like a German war." I honored the 
man for it, and was sorry when he was turned out of his post. 
A great deal has been said without doors of the power, of the 
strength, of America. It is a topic that ought to be cautiously 
meddled with. In a good cause, on a sound bottom, the force 
of this country can crush America to atoms. I know the valor 
of your troops. I know the skill of your ofiicers. There is 
not a company of foot that has served in America out of which 
you may not pick a man of sufficient knowledge and experience 
to make a governor of a • colony there. But on this ground, 
on the stamp act, which so many here will think a crying in- 
justice, I am one who will lift up my hands against it. 

In such a cause, your success would be hazardous. America, 
if she fell, would fall like the strong man ; she would embrace 
the pillars of the state, and pull down the constitution along 
with her. Is this your boasted peace — not to sheathe the sword 
in its scabbard, but to sheathe it in the bowels of your country- 
men ? Will you quarrel with yourselves, now the whole house 
of Bourbon is united against you, while France disturbs your 
fisheries in Newfoundland, embarrasses your slave trade to 
Africa, and withholds from your subjects in Canada their 
property stipulated by treaty ; while the ransom for the Manillas 
is denied by Spain, and its gallant conqueror basely traduced 
into a mean plunderer ! a gentleman (colonel Draper) whose 
noble and generous spirit would do honor to the proudest gran- 



16 MR. PITT'S SPEECH ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 

dee of the country ? The Americans have not acted in all things 
with prudence and temper ; they have been w^ronged ; they 
have been driven to madness, by injustice. Will you punish 
them for the madness you have occasioned ? Rather let pru- 
dence and temper come first from this side. I will undertake 
for America that she will follow the example. There are two 
lines in a ballad of Prior's, of a man's behavior to his wife, so 
applicable to you and your colonies, that I cannot help repeat- 
ing them : 

" Be to her faults a little blind 
Be to her virtues very kind." 

Upon the whole, I will beg leave to tell the house what is 
my opinion. It is, that the stamp act be repealed absolutely, 
totally, and immediately. That the reason for the repeal be 
assigned, because it was founded on an erroneous principle. At 
the same time^ let the sovereign authority of this country over 
the colonies be asserted in as strong terms as can be devised, 
and be made to extend to every point of legislation whatsoever ; 
that we may bind their trade, confine their manufactures, and 
exercise every power whatsoever, except that of taking their 
money out of their pockets without their consent. 



LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH, 

IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS, JANUARY 9, 1770, IN REPLY TO LORD MANS- 
HELD, ON THE FOLLOWING AMENDMENT TO THE ADDRESS TO THE 
THRONE. 

" That we will, with all convenient speed, take into our most serious considera- 
tion the causes of the discontents which prevail in so many parts of your majes- 
ty's dominions, and pajticularly the late proceedings of the house of commons 
touching the incapacity of John Wilkes, Esq. expelled by that house, to be re- 
elected a member to serve in this present parliament ; thereby refusing, by a reso- 
lution of one branch of the legislature only, to the subject his common right, and 
depriving the electors of Middlesex of their free choice of a representative." 

My Lords, 

There is one plain maxim, to which I have invariably ad- 
hered through hfe : that in every question, in which my hberty, 
or my property were concerned, I should consult and be de- 
termined by the dictates of common sense. I confess, my 
lords, that I am apt to distrust the refinement of learning, be- 
cause I have seen the ablest and the most learned men equally 
liable to deceive themselves, and to mislead others. The con- 
dition of human nature would be lamentable indeed, if nothing 
less than the greatest learning and talents, which fall to the 
share of so small a number of men, were sufficient to direct 
our judgment and our conduct. But Providence has taken 
better care of our happiness, and given us, in the simplicity of 
common sense, a rule for our direction, by which we shall 
never be misled. I confess, my lords, I had no other guide in 
drawing up the amendment, which I submitted to your con- 
sideration ; and, before I heard the opinion of the noble lord 
who spoke last, I did not conceive that it was even within the 
limits of possibility for the greatest human genius, the most 
subtle understanding, or the acutest wit, so strangely to mis- 
represent my meaning, and to give it an interpretation so en- 
tirely foreign from what I intended to express, and from that 
sense which the very terms of the amendment plainly and dis- 
tinctly carry with them. If there be the smallest foundation 
for the censure thrown upon me by that noble lord ; if, either 
expressly, or by the most distant implication, I have said or 
insinuated any part of what the noble lord has charged me 
with, discard my opinions for ever, discard the motion with 
contempt. 

My lords, I must beg the indulgence of the house. Neither 
will my health permit me, nor do I pretend to be qualified to 

C 2* 



IS LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH ON 

follow that learned lord minutely through the whole of his ar- 
gument. No man is better acquainted with his abiUties and 
learning, nor has a greater respect for them, than I have. I 
have had the pleasure of sitting with him in the other house, 
and always hstened to him with attention. I have not now 
lost a word of what he said, nor did I ever. Upon the present 
question I meet him without fear. The evidence which truth 
carries with it, .is superior to all argument; it neither wants 
the support, nor dreads the opposition of the greatest abihties. 
If there be a single word in the amendment to justify the inter- 
pretation which the noble lord has been pleased to give it, I am 
ready to renounce the whole. Let it be read, my lords ; let it 
speak for itself In what instance does it interfere with the 
privileges of the house of commons ? In what respect does it 
question their jurisdiction, or suppose an authority in this house 
to arraign the justice of their sentence? I am sure that every 
lord who hears me will bear me witness, that I said not one 
word touching the merits of the Middlesex election. So far 
from conveying any opinion upon that matter, in the amend- 
ment, I did not even in discourse deliver my own sentiments 
upon it. I did not say that the house of commons had done 
either right or wrong ; but, when his majesty was pleased to 
recommend it to us to cultivate unanimity amongst ourselves, 
I thought it the duty of this house, as the great hereditary coun- 
cil of the crown, to state to his majesty the distracted condi- 
tion of his dominions, together with, the events which had de- 
stroyed imanimity among his subjects. But, my lords, I stated 
events merely as facts, without the smallest addition ehher of 
censure or of opinion. They are facts, my lords, which I am 
not only convinced are true, but which I know are indisputably 
true. For example, my lords : will any man deny that discon- 
tents prevail in many parts of his majesty's dominions ? or that 
those discontents arise from the proceedings of the house of 
commons touching the declared incapacity of Mr. Wilkes? 
'T is impossible. No man can deny a truth so notorious. Or 
will any man deny that those proceedings refused, by a resolu- 
tion of one branch of the legislature only, to the subject his 
common right? Is it not indisputably true, my lords, that Mr. 
Wilkes had a common right, and that he lost it no other way 
but by a resolution of the house of commons? My lords, I 
have been tender of misrepresenting the house of commons. 
I have consulted their journals, and have taken the very words 
of their own resolution. Do they not tell us in so many words, 
that Mr. Wilkes, having been expelled, was thereby rendered 



THE ADDRESS TO THE THROJNE. 19 

incapable of serving in that parliament ? and is it not their reso- 
lution alone, which refuses to the subject his common right? 
The amendment says further, that the electors of Middlesex 
are deprived of their free choice of a representative. Is this 
a false fact, my lords ? Or have I given an unfair representa- 
tion of it ? Will any man presume to affirm that colonel Lut- 
trell is the free choice of the electors of Middlesex ? We all 
know^ the contrary. We all know that Mr. Wilkes (whom I 
mention without either praise or censure) was the favorite of 
the county, and chosen by a very great and acknowledged 
majority, to represent them in parliament. If the noble lord 
dislikes the manner in which these facts are stated, I shall think 
myself happy in being advised by him how to alter it. I am 
very little anxious about terms, provided the substance be pre- 
served ; and these are facts, my lords, which I am sure will 
always retain their weight and importance, in whatever form 
of language they are described. 

Now, my lords, since I have been forced to enter into the 
explanation of an amendment, in which nothing less than the 
genius of penetration could have discovered an obscurity, and 
having, as I hope, redeemed myself in the opinion of the house, 
having redeemed my motion from the severe representation 
given of it by the noble lord, I must a little longer entreat your 
lordships' indulgence. The constitution of this country has 
been openly invaded in fact; and I have heard, with horror 
and astonishment that very invasion, defended upon principle. 
What is this mysterious power, undefined by law, unknown to 
the subject, which we must not approach without awe, nor 
speak of without reverence, which no man may question, and 
to which all men must submit ? My lords, I thought the slavish 
doctrine of passive obedience had long since been exploded ; 
and, when our kings were obliged to confess that their title 
to the crown, and the rule of their government, had no other 
foundation than the known laws of the land, I never expected 
to hear a divine right, or a divine infallibility, attributed to any 
other branch of the legislature. My lords, I beg to be under- 
stood. No man respects the house of commons more than I 
do, or would contend more strenuously than I would, to pre- 
serve to them their just and legal authority. Within the bounds 
prescribed by the constitution, that authority is necessary to the 
well-being of the people : beyond that line every exertion of 
power is arbitrary, is illegal ; it threatens tyranny to the people, 
and destruction to the state. Power without right is the most 
odious and detestable object that can be offered to the human 
imagination. It is not only pernicious to those who are sub- 



20 LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH ON 

ject to it, but tends to its own destruction. It is what my noble 
friend has truly described it; Res detestahilis et caduca. My 
lords, I acknowledge the just power, and reverence the consti- 
tution of the house of commons. It is for their own sakes thsft 
I would prevent their assuming a power which the constitution 
has denied them, lest, by grasping at an authority they have 
no right to, they should forfeit that which they legally possess. 
My lords, I affirm that they have betrayed their constituents, 
and violated the constitution. Under pretence of declaring the 
law, they have made a law, and united in the same persons the 
office of legislator and of judge. 

I shall endeavor to adhere strictly to the noble lord's doc- 
trine, which it is, indeed, impossible to mistake, so far as my 
memory will permit me to preserve his expressions. He seems 
fond of the word jurisdiction ; and I confess, with the force and 
effect which he has given it, it is a word of copious meaning 
and wonderful extent. If his lordship's doctrine be well found- 
ed, we must renounce all those political maxims by which our 
understandings have hitherto been directed, and even the first 
elements of learning taught us in our schools when we were 
schoolboys. My lords, we knew that jurisdiction was nothing 
more than Jus dicere ; we knew that Legem facere and Legem 
dicere were powers clearly distinguished from each other in 
the nature of things, and wisely separated by the wisdom of 
the English constitution : but now, it seems, we must adopt a 
new system of thinking. .The house of commons, we are told, 
have a supreme jurisdiction ; and there is no appeal from their 
sentence ; and that wherever they are competent judges, their 
decision must be received and submitted to, as, ipso facto, the 
law of the land. My lords, I am a plain man, and have been 
brought up in a religious reverence for the original simplicity 
of the laws of England. By what sophistry they have been 
perverted, by what artifices they have been involved in ob- 
scurity, is not for me to explain ; the principles, however, of 
the English laws, are still sufficiently clear : they are founded 
in reason, and are the masterpiece of the human understanding ; 
but it is in the text that I would look for a direction to my 
judgment, not in the commentaries of modern professors. The 
noble lord assures us, that he knows not in what code the law 
of parliament is to be found ; that the house of commons, when 
they act as judges, have no law to direct them but their own 
wisdom; that their decision is law; and if they determine 
wrong, the subject has no appeal but to Heaven. What then, 
my lords, are all the generous efforts of our ancestors, are all 
those glorious contentions, by which they meant to secure to 



THE ADDRESS TO THE THRONE. 21 

themselves, and to transmit to their posterity, a known law, a 
certain rule of living, reduced to this conclusion, that instead 
of the arbitrary power of a king, we must submit to the arbi- 
trary power of a house of commons ? If this be true, what 
benefit do we derive from the exchange ? Tyranny, my lords, 
is detestable in every shape ; but in none so formidable as when 
it is assumed and exercised by a number of tyrants. But, my 
lords, this is not the fact ; this is not the constitution. We have 
a law of parliament. We have a code in which every honest 
man m.ay find it. We have Magna Charta, we have the Statute 
Book, and the Bill of Rights. 

If a case should arise unknown to these great authorities, 
we have still that plain EngKsh reason left, which is the found- 
ation of all our English jurisprudence. That reason tells us, 
that every judicial court, and every political society, must be 
vested with those powers and privileges which are necessary 
for performing the office to which they are appointed. It tells 
us also, that no court of justice can have a power inconsistent 
with, or paramount to, the known laws of the land ; that the 
people, when they choose their representatives, never mean to 
convey to them a power of invading the rights, or trampling 
upon the liberties of those whom they represent. What security 
would they have for their rights, if once they admitted, that 
a court of judicature might determine every question that came 
before it, not by any known, positive law, but by the vague, 
indeterminate, arbitrary rule, of what the noble lord is pleased 
to call the icisdom of the court? With respect to the decision of 
the courts of justice, I am far from denying them their due 
weight and authority ; yet, placing them in the most respect- 
able view, I still consider them, not as law, but as an evidence 
of the law ; and before they can arrive even at that degree of 
authority, it must appear, that they are founded in, and con- 
firmed by, reason ; that they are supported by precedents taken 
from good and moderate times; that they do not contradict 
any positive law ; that they are submitted to without reluctance, 
by the people; that they are unquestioned by the legislature 
(which is equivalent to a tacit confirmation) and what, in my 
judgment, is by far the most important, that they do not violate 
the spirit of the constitution. My lords, this is not a vague 
or loose expression. We all know what the constitution is. 
We all know, that the first principle of it is, that the subject 
shall not be governed by the arhitnum of any one man, or body 
of men (less than the whole legislature), but by certain laws, 
to which he has virtually given his consent, which are open to 
him to examine, and not beyond his ability to understand. — 
Now, my lords, I affirm, and am ready to maintain, that the 



22 LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH ON 

late decision of the house of commons upon the Middlesex 
election, is destitute of every one of those properties and con- 
ditions which I hold to be essential to the legality of such a 
decision. It is not founded in reason ; for it carries with it a 
contradiction, that the representative should perform the office 
of the constituent body. It is not supported by a single prece- 
dent ; for the cause of Sir R. Walpole is but a half precedent, 
and even that half is imperfect. Incapacity was indeed declar- 
ed ; but his crimes are stated as the ground of the resolution, 
and his opponent was declared to be not duly elected, even 
after his incapacity was estabhshed. It contradicts Magna 
Charta and the Bill of Rights, by which it is provided, that no 
subject shall be deprived of his freehold, unless by the judg- 
ment of his peers, or the law of the land ; and that elections of 
members to serve in parliament shall be free ; and so far is this 
decision from being submitted to by the people, that they have 
taken the strongest measures, and adopted the most positive 
language to express their discontent. Whether it will be ques- 
tioned by the legislature, will depend upon your lordships' reso- 
lution ; but that it violates the spirit of the constitution, will, I 
think, be disputed by no man who has heard this day's debate, 
and who wishes well to the freedom of his country : yet, if we 
are to believe the noble lord, this great grievance, this mani- 
fest violation of the first principles of the constitution, will not 
admit of a remedy ; is not even capable of redress, unless we 
appeal at once to heaven. My lords, I have better hopes of 
the constitution, and a firmer confidence in the wisdom and 
constitutional authority of this house. It is your ancestors, my 
lords, it is to the English barons, that we are indebted for the 
laws and constitution we possess. Their virtues were rude 
and uncultivated, but they were great and sincere. Their 
understandings were as little polished as their manners, but 
they had hearts to distinguish right from wrong; they had 
heads to distinguish truth from falsehood ; they understood the 
rights of humanity, and they had spirit to maintain them. 

My lords, I think that history has not done justice to their 
conduct, when they obtained from their sovereign, that great 
acknowledgment of national rights contained in Magna Charta : 
they did not confine it to themselves alone, but delivered it as a 
common blessing to the whole people. They did not say, these 
are the rights of the great barons, or these are the rights of the 
great prelates : — No, my lords ; they said, in the simple Latin 
of the times, nullus liber homo, and provided as carefully for 
the meanest subject as for the greatest. These are uncouth 
words, and sound but poorly in the ears of scholars ; neither 
are they addressed to the criticism of scholars, but to the hearts 



THE ADDRESS TO THE THRONE. 23 

of free men. These three words, nullus liber homo, have a 
meaning which interests us all; they deserve to be remembered 
— they deserve to be inculcated in our minds — they are worth 
all the classics. Let us not, then, degenerate from the glo- 
rious example of our ancestors. Those iron barons (for so I 
may call them when compared with the silken barons of modern 
days) were the guardians of the people ; yet their virtues, my 
lords, were never engaged in a question of such importance as 
the present. A breach has been made in the constitution — the 
battlements are dismantled — the citadel is open to the first inva- 
der — the walls totter — the constitution is not tenable. What 
remains then, but for us to stand foremost in the breach, to 
repair it, or perish in it ? 

Great pains have been taken to alarm us with the consequences 
of a difference between the two houses of parliament — that 
the house of commons will resent our presuming to take notice 
of their proceedings ; that they will resent our daring to advise 
the crown, and never forgive us for attempting to save the 
state. My lords, I am sensible of the importance and difficulty 
of this great crisis : at a moment, such as this, we are called 
upon to do our duty, without dreading the resentment of any 
man. But if apprehensions of this kind are to affect us, let us 
consider which we ought to respect most, the representative, 
or the collective body of the people. My lords, five hundred 
gentlemen are not ten millions ; and if we must have a conten- 
tion, let us take care to have the English nation on our side. 
If this question be given up, the freeholders of England are 
reduced to a condition baser than the peasantry of Poland. If 
they desert their own cause, they deserve to be slaves ! My 
lords, this is not merely the cold opinion of my understanding, 
but the glowing expression of what I feel. It is my heart that 
speaks. I know I speak warmly, my lords ; but this warmth 
shall neither betray my argument nor my temper. The king- 
dom is in a flame. As mediators between the king and people, 
it is our duty to represent to him the true condition and temper 
of his subjects. It is a duty which no particular respects 
should hinder us from performing ; and whenever his majesty 
shall demand our advice, it will then be our duty to inquire 
more minutely into the causes of the present discontents. 
Whenever that inquiry shall come on, I pledge myself to the 
house to prove, that since the first institution of the house of 
commons, not a single precedent can be produced to justify 
their late proceedings. My noble and. learned friend (the lord 
chancellor) has pledged himself to the house, that he will sup- 
port that assertion. 

My lords, the character and circumstances of Mr. Wilkes 



24 LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH ON 

have been very improperly introduced into this question, not 
only here, but in that court of judicature v^^here his cause vt^as 
tried. I mean the house of commons. With one party he 
was a patriot of the first magnitude ; with the other the vilest 
incendiary. For my own part, I consider him merely and in- 
differently as an English subject, possessed of certain rights 
which the laws have given him, and which the laws alone can 
take from him. I am neither moved by his private vices, nor 
by his pubhc merits. In his person, though he were the worst 
of men, I contend for the safety and security of the best ; and, 
God forbid, my lords, that there should be a power in this coun- 
try of measuring the civil rights of the subject by his moral 
character, or by any other rule but the fixed laws of the land : 
I beheve, my lords, / shall not be suspected of any personal 
partiaUty to this unhappy man. I am not very conversant in 
pamphlets or newspapers ; but, from w'hat I have heard, and 
from the httle I have read, I may venture to affirm, that I have 
had my share in the compliments which have come from that 
quarter ; and, as for motives of ambition (for I must take to 
myself a part of the noble duke's insinuation) I believe, my 
lords, there have been times in which I have had the honor of 
standing in such favor in the closet, that there must have been 
something extravagantly unreasonable in my wishes if they 
might not all have been gratified. After neglecting those op- 
portunities, I am now suspected of coming forward in the de- 
chne of life, in the anxious pursuit of wealth and power, which 
it is impossible for me to enjoy. Be it so. There is one am- 
bition at least which I ever will acknowledge, which I will not 
renounce but with my life. It is the ambition of dehvering to 
my posterity those rights of freedom which I have received 
from my ancestors. I am not now pleading the cause of an 
individual, but of every freeholder in England. In what man- 
ner this house may constitutionally interpose in their defence, 
and what kind of redress this case will require and admit of, is 
not at present the subject of our consideration. The amend- 
ment, if agreed to, will naturally lead us to such an inquiry. 
That inquiry may, perhaps, point out the necessity, of an act 
of the legislature, or it may lead us, perhaps, to desire a con- 
ference with the other house ; which one noble lord affirms is 
the only parliamentary way of proceeding ; and which another 
noble lord assures us the house of commons would either not 
come to, or would break off with indignation. Leaving their 
lordships to reconcile that matter between themselves, I shall 
only say, that before we have inquired, we cannot be provided 
with materials : consequently we are not at present prepared 
for a conference. 



THE ADDRESS TO THE THRONE. 25 

It is not impossible, my lords, that the inquiry I speak of may 
lead us to advise his majesty to dissolve the present parlia- 
ment ; nor have I any doubt of our right to give that advice, 
if we should think it necessary. His majesty will then deter- 
mine whether he will yield to the united petitions of the people 
of England, or maintain the house of commons in the exercise 
of a legislative power, which heretofore aboHshed the house of 
lords, 'and overturned the monarchy. I willingly acquit the 
present house of commons of having actually formed so detest- 
able a design; but they cannot themselves foresee to what ex- 
cesses they may be carried hereafter ; and for my own part, I 
should be sorry to trust to their future moderation. Unlimited 
power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it ; and 
this I know, my lords, that, where law ends, tyranny begins ! 



D 



LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH, 

IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS, JANUARY 20, 1775, ON A MOTION FOR AN 
ADDRESS TO HIS MAJESTY, TO GIVE IMMEDIATE ORDERS FOR RE- 
MOVING HIS TROOPS FROM BOSTON. 

My Lords, 

After more than six weeks' possession of the papers now 
before you, on a subject so momentous, at a time when the fate 
of this nation hangs on every hour ; the ministry have at length 
condescended to submit to the consideration of this house in- 
telhgence from America, with which your lordships and the 
pubHc have been long and fully acquainted. 

The measures of last year, my lords, which have produced 
the present alarming state of America, were founded upon 
misrepresentation; they were violent, precipitate, and vindictive. 
The nation was told, that it was only a faction in Boston, which 
opposed all lawful government; that an unwarrantable injury 
had been done to private property, for which the justice of par- 
liament was called upon, to order reparation; — that the least 
appearance of firmness would awe the Americans into sub- 
mission, and upon only passing the Rubicon we should be, sine 
clade victor. 

That the people might choose their representatives under the 
impression of those misrepresentations, the parliament was 
precipitately dissolved. Thus the nation was to be rendered 
instrumental in executing the vengeance of administration on 
that injured, unhappy, traduced people. 

But now, my lords, we find, that instead of suppressing the 
opposition of the faction at Boston, these measures have spread 
it over the whole continent. They have united that whole 
people, by the most indissoluble of all bands — intolerable wrongs. 
The just retribution, is an indiscrimate, unmerciful proscription 
of the innocent with the guilty, unheard and untried. The 
bloodless victory, is an impotent general with his dishonored 
army, trusting solely to the pickaxe and the spade, for security 
against the just indignation of an injured and insulted people. 

My lords, I am happy that a relaxation of my infirmities 
permits me to seize this earliest opportunity of offering my 
poor advice to save this unhappy country, at this moment 
tottering to its ruin. But, as I have not the honor of access 
to his majesty, I will endeavor to transmit to him, through the 
constitutional channel of this house, my ideas on American 
business, to rescue him from the misadvice of his present 



SPEECH ON REMOVING THE TROOPS FROM BOSTON. 27 

ministers. I congratulate your lordships that the business is 
at last entered upon, by the noble lord's laying the papers 
before you. As I suppose your lordships are too well apprized 
of their contents, I hope I am not premature in submitting to 
you my present motion. 

I wish, my lords, not to lose a day in this urgent, pressing 
crisis. An hour now lost in allaying ferments in America, may 
produce years of calamity. For my own part, I will not desert, 
for a moment, the conduct of this weighty business from the 
first to the last. Unless nailed to my bed by the extremity of 
sickness, I will give it unremitted attention. I will knock at 
the door of this sleeping and confounded ministry, and will 
rouse them to a sense of their important danger. 

When I state the importance of the colonies to this country, 
and the magnitude of danger hanging over this country, from 
the present plan of misadministration practised against them, 
I desire not to be understood to argue for a reciprocity of 
indulgence between England and America. I contend not for 
indulgence, but justice, to America ; and I shall ever contend, 
that the Americans justly owe obedience to us in a Hmited 
degree — they owe obedience to our ordinances of trade and 
navigation; but let the line be skilfully drawn between the 
objects of those ordinances, and their private internal property. 
Let the sacredness of their property remain inviolate. Let it 
be taxable only by their own consent, given in their provincial 
assemblies ; else it will cease to be property. As to the meta- 
physical refinements, attempting to show that the Americans 
are equally free from obedience and commercial restraints, as 
from taxation for revenue, as being unrepresented here, I 
pronounce them futile, frivolous, and groundless. 

When I urge this measure of recalling the troops from Boston, 
I urge it on this pressing principle, that it is necessarily prepa- 
ratory to the restoration of your peace, and the establishment 
of your prosperity. It will then appear that you are disposed 
to treat amicably and equitably ; and to consider, revise, and 
repeal, if it should be found necessary, as I affirm it will, those 
violent acts and declarations w^hich have disseminated confusion 
throughout your empire. 

Resistance to your acts was necessary as it was just ; and 
your vain declarations of the omnipotence of parliament, and 
your imperious doctrines of the necessity of submission, will 
be found equally impotent to convince or to enslave your fellow- 
subjects in America, who feel that tyranny, whether ambitioned 
by an individual part of the legislature, or the bodies who 
compose it, is equally intolerable to British subjects. 

The means of enforcing this thraldom are found to be as 



28 LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH ON 

ridiculous and weak in practice, as they are unjust in principle. 
Indeed I cannot but feel the most anxious sensibility for the 
situation of general Gage, and the troops under his command; 
thinking him, as I do, a man of humanity and understanding ; 
and entertaining, as I ever will, the highest respect, the warmest 
love for the British troops. Their situation is truly unworthy ; 
penned up — pining in inglorious inactivity. They are an army 
of impotence. You may call them an army of safety and of 
guard ; but they are in truth an army of impotence and con- 
tempt ; and, to make the folly equal to the disgrace, they are 
an army of irritation and vexation. 

But I find a report creeping abroad, that ministers censure 
general Gage's inactivity. Let them censure him — it becomes 
them — it becomes their justice and their honor. I mean not to 
censure his inactivity. It is a prudent and necessary inaction : 
but it is a miserable condition, where disgrace is prudence, and 
where it is necessary to be contemptible. This tameness, how- 
ever contemptible, cannot be censured; for the first drop of 
blood shed in civil and unnatural war might be immedicabile 
vulnus, 

I therefore urge and conjure your lordships, immediately to 
adopt this conciliating measure. I will pledge myself for its 
immediately producing conciliatory effects, by its being thus 
well-timed: but if you delay till your vain hope shall be 
accomplished, of triumphantly dictating reconciliation, you 
delay for ever. But, admitting that this hope, which in truth 
is desperate, should be accomplished, what do you gain by the 
imposition of your victorious amity? — you will be untrusted 
and unthanked. Adopt, then, the grace, while you have the 
opportunity of reconcilement; or at least prepare the way. 
Allay the ferment prevailing in America, by removing the 
obnoxious hostile cause — obnoxious and unserviceable; for 
their merit can be only inaction : " Non dimicare et vincere" — 
their victory can never be by exertions. Their force would be 
most disproportionately exerted against a brave, generous, and 
united people, with arms in their hands, and courage in their 
hearts : — three millions of people, the genuine descendants of 
a valiant and pious ancestry, driven to those deserts by the 
narrow maxims of a superstitious tyranny. — And is the spirit 
of persecution never to be appeased ? Are the brave sons of 
those brave forefathers to inherit their sufferings, as they have 
mherited their virtues ? Are they to sustain the infliction of the 
most oppressive and unexampled severity, beyond the accounts 
of history, or description of poetry: " Rhadamanihus habet 
durissima regna, castigatque auditque." So says the wisest 
poet, and perhaps the wisest statesman and politician. — But our 



REMOVING THE TROOPS FROM BOSTON. 29 

ministers say, the Americans must not he heard. They have 
been condemned unheard. — The indiscriminate hand of ven- 
geance has lumped together innocent and guilty ; v^^ith all the 
formalities of hostility, has blocked up the town, and reduced to 
beggary and famine thirty thousand inhabitants. 

But his majesty is advised, that the union in America cannot 
last. Ministers have more eyes than I, and should have more 
ears ; but with all the information I have been able to procure, 
I can pronounce it — a union, solid, permanent, and effectual. 
Ministers may satisfy themselves, and delude the public, with 
the report of what they call commercial bodies in America. 
They are not commercial ; they are your packers and factors ; 
they live upon nothing — for I call commission nothing. I mean 
the ministerial authority for this American intelligence; the 
runners for government, who are paid for their intelligence. 
But these are not the men, nor this the influence, to be consid- 
ered in America, when we estimate the firmness of their union. 
Even to extend the question, and to take in the really mercantile 
circle, will be totally inadequate to the consideration. Trade 
indeed increases the wealth and glory of a country; but its 
real strength and stamina are to be looked for among the culti- 
vators of the land. In their simplicity of life is found the 
simple ness of virtue — the integrity and courage of freedom. 
These true genuine sons of the earth are invincible : and they 
surround and hem in the mercantile bodies ; even if these bodies, 
which supposition I totally disclaim, could be supposed disaf- 
fected to the cause of liberty. Of this general spirit existing 
in the British nation ; (for so I wish to distinguish the real and 
genuine Americans from the pseudo-traders I have described)— 
of this spirit of independence, animating the nation of Ame- 
rica, I have the most authentic information. It is not new 
among them; it is, and has ever been, their established 
principle, their confirmed persuasion: it is their nature, and 
their doctrine. 

I remember some years ago, when the repeal of the stamp 
act was in agitation, conversing in a friendly confidence with 
a person of undoubted respect and authenticity, on that subject; 
and he assured me with a certainty which his judgment and 
opportunity gave him, that these were the prevalent and steady 
principles of America. — That you might destroy their towns, 
and cut them off from the superfluities, perhaps the conveniences 
of fife ; but that they were prepared to despise your power, and 
would not lament their loss, whilst they have — what, my lords ? 
their woods and their liberty. The name of my authority, if I 
am called upon, will authenticate the opinion irrefragably. 

3* 



30 LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH ON 

If illegal violences have been, as it is said, committed in 
America ; prepare the v^^ay, open the door of possibility, for 
acknowledgment and satisfaction : but proceed not to such co- 
ercion, such proscription ; cease your indiscriminate inflictions ; 
amerce not thirty thousand ; oppress not three millions, for the 
fault of forty or fifty individuals. Such severity of injustice 
must for ever render incurable the wounds you have already 
given your colonies ; you irritate them to unappeasable rancor. 
What though you march from town to town, and from province 
to province ; though you should be able to enforce a tempo- 
rary and local submission, which I only suppose, not admit — 
how shall you be able to secure the obedience of the country 
you leave behind you in your progress, to grasp the dominion 
of eighteen hundred miles of continent, populous in numbers, 
possessing valor, hberty, and resistance ? 

This resistance to your arbitrary system of taxation might 
have been foreseen : it was obvious from the nature of things, 
and of mankind ; and above all, from the whiggish spirit flour- 
ishing in that country. The spirit which now resists your taxa- 
tion in America, is the same which formerly opposed loans, 
benevolences, and ship-money in England: the same spirit 
which called all England on its legs, and by the bill of rights 
vindicated the English constitution : the same spirit which es- 
tabUshed the great, fundamental, essential maxim of your liber- 
ties, that no subject of England shall he taxed but by his own 
consent. 

This glorious spirit of whiggism animates three millions in 
America ; who prefer poverty with liberty, to gilded chains 
and sordid affluence ; and who will die in defence of their rights 
as men, as freemen. What shall oppose this spirit, aided by 
the congenial flame glowing in the breast of every whig in 
England, to the amount, I hope, of double the American num- 
bers ? Ireland they have to a man. In that country, joined 
as it is with the cause of colonies, and placed at their head, 
the distinction I contend for is and must be observed. This 
country superintends and controls their. trade and navigation; 
but they tax themselves. And this distinction between external 
and internal control is sacred and insurmountable; it is in- 
volved in the abstract nature of things. Property is private, 
individual, absolute. Trade is an extended and complicated 
consideration : it reaches as far as ships can sail, or winds can 
blow : it is a great and various machine. To regulate the 
numberless movements of its several parts, and combine them 
into effect, for the good of the whole, requires the superintend- 
ing wisdom and energy of the supreme power in the empire. 



REMOVING THE TROOPS FROM BOSTON. 31 

But this supreme power has no effect towards internal taxa- 
tion; for it does not exist in that relation; there is no such 
thing, no such idea in this constitution, as a supreme power 
operating upon property. Let this distinction then remain for 
ever ascertained ; taxation is theirs, commercial regulation is 
ours. As an American, I would recognize to England her su- 
preme right of regulating commerce and navigation: as an 
Englishman by birth and principle, I recognize to the Ameri- 
cans their supreme, unalienable right in their property ; a right 
which they are justified in the defence of to the last extremity. 
To maintain this principle is the common cause of the whigs 
on the other side of the Atlantic, and on this. " 'T is liberty 
to liberty engaged," that they will defend themselves, their fami- 
lies, and their country. In this great cause they are immovably 
allied : it is the alliance of God and nature — immutable, eter- 
nal — fixed as the firmament of heaven. 

To such united force, what force shall be opposed ? — What, 
my lords ! — A few regiments in America, and seventeen or 
eighteen thousand men at home ! The idea is too ridiculous 
to take up a moment of your lordships' time. Nor can such 
a national and principled union be resisted by the tricks of 
office, or ministerial manoeuvre. Laying of papers on your 
table, or counting numbers on a division, will not avert or post- 
pone the hour of danger. It must arrive, my lords, unless these 
fatal acts are done away; it must arrive in all its horrors, and 
then these boastful ministers, spite of all their confidence, and 
all their manoeuvres, shall be forced to hide their heads. They 
shall be forced to a disgraceful abandonment of their present 
measures and principles, which they avow, but cannot defend ; 
measures which they presume to attempt, but cannot hope to 
effectuate. They cannot, my lords, they cannot stir a step ; 
they have not a move left ; they are check-mated. 

But it is not repealing this act of parliament, it is not repeal- 
ing a piece of parchmentj that can restore America to our 
bosom. You must repeal her fears and her resentments ; and 
you may then hope for her love and gratitude. But now, in- 
sulted with an armed force posted at Boston, irritated with a 
hostile array before her eyes, her concessions, if you could force 
them, would be suspicious and insecure ; they will be irato ani- 
mo ; they will not be the sound honorable passions of freemen, 
they will be the dictates of fear, and extortions of force. But 
it is more than evident, that you cannot force them, united as 
they are, to your unworthy terms of submission — it is impos- 
sible. And when I hear general Gage censured for inactivity, 
I must retort with indignation on those whose intemperate 



33 LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH ON 

measures and improvident councils have betrayed him into his 
present situation. His situation reminds me, my lords, of the 
answer of a French general in the civil v^ars of France — 
Monsieur Conde opposed to Monsieur Turenne. He was asked, 
how it happened that he did not take his adversary prisoner, 
as he was often very near him : " J'ai peur," replied Conde, 
very honestly, "J'ai peur qu'il ne me penne;" — rm afraid he'll 
take me. 

When your lordships look at the papers transmitted, us from 
America ; when you consi3er their decency, firmness, and wis- 
dom, you cannot but respect their cause and wish to make it 
your own. For myself, I must declare and avow, that in all 
my reading and observation — and it has been my favorite 
study — I have read Thucydides, and have studied and admired 
the master states of the world — that for solidity of reasoning, 
force of sagacity, and wisdom of conclusion, under such a 
complication of difficult circumstances, no nation, or body of 
men, can stand in preference to the general congress at Phila- 
delphia. I trust it is obvious to your lordships, that all attempts 
to impose servitude upon such men, to establish despotism over 
such a mighty continental nation, must be vain, must be fatal. 
We shall be forced ultimately to retract; let us retract while 
we can, not when we must. I say we must necessarily undo 
these violent oppressive acts ; they must be repealed — you will 
repeal them ; I pledge myself for it, that you will in the end 
repeal them ; I stake my reputation on it — I will consent to be 
taken for an idiot, if they are not finally repealed. Avoid, 
then, this humiliating, disgraceful necessity. With a dignity 
becoming your exalted situation, make the first advances to 
concord, to peace, and happiness ; for that is your true dignity, 
to act with prudence and justice. That you should first con- 
cede, is obvious, from sound and rational policy. Concession 
comes with better grace and more salutary effect from superior 
power. It reconciles superiority of power with the feelings of 
men, and establishes solid confidence on the foundations of af- 
fection and gratitude. 

So thought a wise poet and a wise man in political sagacity ; 
the friend of Mecaenas, and the eulogist of Augustus. To him, 
the adopted son and successor of the first Caesar, to him, the 
master of the world, he wisely urged this conduct of prudence 
and dignity; " Tuque pior, tu parce; prqjice tela manu.^' 

Every motive, therefore, of justice and of policy, of dignity 
and of prudence, urges you to allay the ferment in America, 
by a removal of your troops from Boston, by a repeal of your 
acts of parliament, and by demonstration of amicable disposi- 



REMOVING THE TROOPS FROM BOSTON. 33 

tions towards your colonies. On the other hand, every danger 
and every hazard impend, to deter you from perseverance in 
your present ruinous measure. Foreign wslt hanging over 
your heads by a slight and brittle thread. France and Spain 
w^atching your conduct, and waiting for the maturity of your 
errors; with a vigilant eye to America, and the temper of 
your colonies, more than to their own concerns, be they what 
they may. 

To conclude, my lords, if the ministers thus persevere in mis- 
advising and misleading the king, I will not say, that they can 
alienate the affections of his subjects from his crown ; but I will 
affirm, that they will make the crown not worth Ms wearing. I 
will not say that the king is betrayed ; but I will pronounce, 
that the kingdom is undone. 



E 



LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH, 

IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS, AT THE OPENING OF PARLIAMENT, 
NOVEMBER 18, 1777. 

I RISE, my lords, to declare my sentiments on this most 
solemn and serious subject. It has imposed a load upon my 
mind, which, I fear, nothing can remove ; but which impels me 
to endeavor its alleviation, by a free and unreserved communi- 
cation of my sentiments. 

In the first part of the address, I have the honor of heartily 
concurring with the noble earl who moved it. No man feels 
sincerer joy than I do; none can offer more genuine congratu- 
lation on every accession of strength to the Protestant succes- 
sion. I therefore join in every congratulation on the birth of 
another princess, and the happy recovery of her majesty. But 
I must stop here. My courtly complaisance will carry me no 
further. I will not join in congratulation on misfortune and 
disgrace. I cannot concur in a blind and servile address, 
which approves, and endeavors to sanctify the monstrous 
measures which have heaped disgrace and misfortune, upon us. 
This, my lords, is a perilous and tremendous moment ! It is 
not a time for adulation. The smoothness of flattery cannot 
now avail ; cannot save us in this rugged and awful crisis. It 
is now necessary to instruct the throne in the language of truth. 
We must dispel the delusion and the darkness which envelop 
it ; and display, in its full danger and true colors, the ruin that 
is brought to our doors. 

This, my lords, is our duty. It is the proper function of this 
noble assembly, sitting, as we do, upon our honors in this 
house, the hereditary council of the crown. Who is the minis- 
ter — where is the minister, that has dared to suggest to the 
throne the contrary, unconstitutional language this day deliv- 
ered frorrf it ? The accustomed language from the throne 

has been application to parliament for advice, and a reliance 
on its constitutional advice and assistance. As it is the right 
of parhament to give, so it is the duty of the crown to ask it. 
But on this day, and in this extreme momentous exigency, no 
reliance is reposed on our constitutional counsels ! no advice is 
asked from the sober and enlightened care of parliament ! but 
the crown, from itself, and by itself, declares an unalterable 
determination to pursue measures — and what measures, my 
lords ? — The measures that have produced the imminent perils 



THE ADDRESS TO THE THRONE. 35 

that threaten us ; the measures that have brought ruin to our 
doors. 

Can the minister of the day now presume to expect a con- 
tinuance of support, in this ruinous infatuation? Can parUa- 
ment be so dead to its dignity and its duty, as to be thus 
deluded into the loss of the one and the violation of the other? 

To give an unlimited credit and support for the steady 

perseverance in measures not proposed for our parliamentary 
advice, but dictated and forced upon us — in measures, I say, 
my lords, which have reduced this late flourishing empire to 
ruin and contempt ! — " But yesterday, and England might have 
stood against the world : now none so poor to do her rever- 
ence." I use the words of a poet ; but, though it be poetry, it 
is no fiction. It is a shameful truth, that not only the power 
and strength of this country are wasting away and expiring ; but 
her well-earned glories, her true honor, and substantial dignity 
are sacrificed. France, my lords, has insulted you ; she has 
encouraged and sustained America ; and whether America be 
wrong or right, the dignity of this country ought to spurn at 
the officious insult of French interference. The ministers and 
ambassadors of those who are called rebels and enemies, are 
in Paris; in Paris they transact the reciprocal interests of 
America and France. Can there be a more mortifying insult ? 
Can even our ministers sustain a more humiliating disgrace ? 
Do they dare to resent it? Do they presume even to hint a 
vindication of their honor, and the dignity of the state, by 
requiring the dismission of the plenipotentiaries of America? 
Such is the degradation to which they have reduced the glories 
of England ! The people whom they aflfect to call contemptible 
rebels, but whose growing power has at last obtained the name 
of enemies; the people with whom they have engaged this 
country in war, and against whom they now command our 
imphcit support in every measure of desperate hostility : this 
people, despised as rebels, or acknowledged as enemies, are 
abetted against you, supphed with every military store, their 
interests consulted, and their ambassadors entertained, by your 
inveterate enemy ! and our ministers dare not interpose with 
dignity or effect. Is this the honor of a great kingdom ? Is 
this the indignant spirit of England, who, "but yesterday," 
gave law to the house of Bourbon ? My lords, the dignity of 
nations demands a decisive conduct in a situation like this. 
Even when the greatest prince that perhaps this country ever 
saw, filled our throne, the requisition of a Spanish general on 
a similar subject, was attended to, and complied with. For, • 
on the spirited remonstrance of the Duke of Alva, Elizabeth 
found herself obliged to deny the Flemish exiles all counte- 



36 LORD CHATHAM'S^ SPEECH ON 

nance, support, or even entrance into her dominions ; and the 
Count le Marque,^ with his few desperate fellowers, were 
expelled the kingdom. Happening to arrive at the Brille, and 
finding it weak in defence, they made themselves masters of 
the place: and this was the foundation of the United Prov- 
inces. 

My lords, this ruinous and ignominious situation, where we 
cannot act with success, nor suffer with honor, calls upon us to 
remonstrate in the strongest and loudest language of truth, to 
rescue the ear of majesty from the delusions which surround it. 
The desperate state of our arms abroad is in part known : no 
man thinks more highly of them than I do. I love and honor 
the English troops. I know their virtues and their valor. I 
know they can achieve anything except impossibilities ; and I 
know that the conquest of English America is an impossibility. 
You cannot, I venture to say it, you cannot conquer America. 
Your armies last war effected everything that could be 
effected ; and what was it ? It cost a numerous army, under 
the command of a most able general, now a noble lord in this 
house, a long and laborious campaign, to expel five thousand 
Frenchmen from French America. My lords, you cannot 
conquer America. What is your present situation there ? We 
do not know the worst; but we know, that in three campaigns 
we have done nothing and suffered much. Besides the suffer- 
ings, perhaps total loss, of the northern force ; the best ap- 
pointed army that ever took the field, commanded by Sir 
WilHam Howe, has retired from the American lines. He was 
obliged to relinquish his attempt, and, with great delay and 
danger, to adopt a new and distant plan of operations. We 
shall soon know, and in any event have reason to lament, what 
may have happened since. As to conquest, therefore, my lords, 
I repeat, it is impossible. You may swell every expense, and 
every effort, still more extravagantly; pile and accumulate 
every assistance yOu can buy or borrow ; traffic and barter 
with every little pitiful German prince, that sells and sends his 
subjects to the shambles of a foreign prince ; your efforts are 
for ever vain and impotent : doubly so from this mercenary aid 
on which you rely. For it irritates, to an incurable resent- 
ment, the minds of your enemies — to overrun them with the 
mercenary sons of rapine and plunder; devoting them and 
their possessions to the rapacity of hireling cruelty ! If I were 
an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop 
was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms — 
never — never — never. 

Your own army is infected with the contagion of these illib- 
eral allies. The spirit of plunder and of rapine is gone forth 



THE ADDRESS TO THE THRONE. 37 

among them. I know it — and notwithstanding what the noble 
earl, who moved the address, has given as his opinion of our 
American army, I know from authentic information, and the 
most experienced officers, that our discipline is deeply wounded. 
Whilst this is notoriously our sinking situation, America grows 
and flourishes : whilst our strength and discipline are lowered, 
hers are rising and improving. 

But my lords, who is the man, that in addition to these dis- 
graces and mischiefs of our army, has dared to authorize and 
associate to our arms the tomahawk and scalping-knife of the 
savage ? To call into civilised alliance, the wild and inhuman 
savage of the woods; to delegate to the merciless Indian,' the 
defence of disputed rights, and to wage the horrors of his bar- 
barous war against our brethren ? My lords, these enormities 
cry aloud for redress and punishment. Unless thoroughly done 
away, it will be a stain on the national character. It is a 
violation of the constitution. I believe it is against law. It is 
not the least of our national misfortunes, that the strength and 
character of our army are thus impaired. Infected with the 
mercenary spirit of robbery and rapine; familiarized to the 
horrid scenes of savage cruelty, it can no longer boast of the 
noble and generous principles which dignify a soldier ; no longer 
sympathize with the dignity of the royal banner, nor feel the 
pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war, "that make 
ambition virtue !" What makes ambition virtue ? — the sense of 
honor. But is the sense of honor consistent with a spirit of 
plunder, or the practice of murder? Can it flow from mer- 
cenary motives, or can it prompt to cruel deeds? Besides 
these murderers and plunderers, let me ask our ministers, what 
other aUies have they acquired ? What other powers have they 
associated to their cause? Have they entered into alliance 
with the king of the gypsies ? Nothing, my lords, is too low or 
too ludicrous to be consistent with their counsels. 

The independent views of America have been stated and as- 
serted as the foundation of this address. My lords, no man 
wishes for the due dependence of America on this country 
more than I do. To preserve it, and not confirm that state of 
independence into which your measures hitherto have driven 
them, is the object which we ought to unite in attaining. The 
Americans, contending for their rights against arbitrary exac- 
tions, I love and admire. It is the struggle of free and virtu- 
ous patriots ; but contending for independency and total discon- 
nexion from England, as an EngKshman, I cannot wish them 
success. For, in a due constitutional dependency, including 
the ancient supremacy of this country in regulating their com- 
merce and navigation, consists the mutual happiness and pros- 

4 



LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH ON 



1 



perity both of England and America. She derived assistance 
and protection from us ; and we reaped from her the most im- 
portant advantages. She v^as, indeed, the fountain of our 
vi^eahh, the nerve of our strength, the nursery and basis of our 
naval power. It is our duty, therefore, my lords, if we wish 
to save our country, most seriously to endeavor the recovery 
of these most beneficial subjects ; and in this perilous crisis, per- 
haps the present moment may be the only one in which we can 
hope for success. For in their negotiations with France they 
have, or think they have, reason to complain: though it be noto- 
rious that they have received from that power, important sup- 
plies and assistance of various kinds, yet it is certain they 
expected it in a more decisive and immediate degree. America 
is in ill humor with France, on some points that have not 
entirely answered her expectations. Let us wisely take advan- 
tage of every possible moment of reconciliation. Besides, the 
natural disposition of America herself still leans towards Eng- 
land ; to the old habits of connexion and mutual interest that 
united both countries. This was the established sentiment of 
all the continent ; and still, my lords, in the great and principal 
part, the sound part of America, this wise and aflfectionate dis- 
position prevails ; and there is a 'very considerable part of 
America yet sound — the middle and the southern provinces; 
some parts may be factious and bhnd to their true interests ; 
but if we express a wise and benevolent disposition to commu- 
nicate with them those immutable rights of nature, and those 
constitutional liberties, to which they are equally entitled with 
ourselves ; by a conduct so just and humane, we shall confirm 
the favorable, and conciliate the adverse. I say, my lords, 
the rights and liberties to which they are equally entitled with 
ourselves, but no more. I would participate to them every 
enjoyment and freedom which the colonizing subjects of a free 
state can possess, or wish to possess ; and I do not see why 
they should not enjoy every fundamental right in their property, 
and every original substantial liberty, which Devonshire or 
Surrey, or the county I live in, or any other county in England, 
can claim ; reserving always, as the sacred right of the mother 
country, the due constitutional dependency of the colonies. 
The inherent supremacy of the state in regulating and protect- 
ing the navigation and commerce of all her subjects, is neces- 
sary for the mutual benefit and preservation of every part, to 
constitute and preserve the prosperous arrangement of the 
whole empire. 

The sound parts of America, of which I have spoken, must 
be sensible of these great truths, and of their real interests. 
America is not in that state of desperate and contemptible 



THE ADDRESS TO THE THRONE. 39 

rebellion which this country has been deluded to believe. It is 
not a wild and lawless banditti, who, having nothing to lose, 
might hope to snatch something from public convulsions. 
Many of their leaders and great men have a great stake in this 
great contest. The gentleman who conducts their armies, I 
am told, has an estate of four or five thousand pounds a year ; 
and when I consider these things, I cannot but lament the incon- 
siderate violence of our penal acts, our declarations of treason 
and rebellion, with all the fatal effects of attainder and confis- 
cation. 

As to the disposition of foreign powers, which is asserted to 
be pacific and friendly, let us judge, my lords, rather by their 
actions and the nature of things, than by interested assertions. 
The- uniform assistance, supplied to America by France, sug- 
gests a different conclusion. The most important interests of 
France, in aggrandizing and enriching herself with what she 
most wants, suppKes of every naval store from America, must 
inspire her with difierent sentiments. The extraordinary pre- 
parations of the house of Bourbon, by land and by sea, from 
Dunkirk to the Streights, equally ready and wilhng to over- 
whelm these defenceless islands, should rouse us to a sense of 
their real disposition, and our own danger. Not five thousand 
troops in England ! — hardly three thousand in Ireland ! What 
can we oppose to the combined force of our enemies 1 — Scarce- 
ly twenty ships of the line fully or sufficiently manned, that any 
admiral's reputation would permit him to take the command 
. of. The river of Lisbon in the possession of our enemies ! 
The seas swept by American privateers. Our channel trade 
torn to pieces by them ! In this complicated crisis of danger, 
weakness at home, and calamity abroad, terrified and insulted 
by the neighboring powers, unable to act in America, or acting 
only to be destroyed, where is the man with the forehead to 
promise or hope for success in such a situation ? or, from per- 
severance in the measures that have driven us to it ? Who has 
the forehead to do so? Where is that man? I should be glad 
to see his face. 

You cannot conciliate America by your present measures. 
You cannot subdue her by your present, or by any measures. 
What, then, can you do ? You cannot conquer ; you cannot 
gain; but you can address ; you can lull the fears and anxieties 
of the moment into an ignorance of the danger that should 
produce them. But, my lords, the time demands the language 
of truth. We must not now apply the flattering unction of 
servile compliance, or blind complaisance. In a just and neces- 
sary war, to maintain the rights or honor of my country, I 
would strip the shirt from my back to support it. But in such 



40 LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH ON 

a war as this, unjust in its principle, impracticable in its means, 
and ruinous in its consequences, I would not contribute a single 
effort, nor a single shilling. I. do not call for vengeance on the 
heads of those who have been guilty: I only recommend to 
them to make their retreat. Let them walk off; and let them 
make haste, or they may be assured that speedy and condign 
punishment will overtake them. 

My lords, I have submitted to you, with the freedom and 
truth which I think my duty, my sentiments on your present 
awful situation. I have laid before you the ruin of your power, 
the disgrace of your reputation, the pollution of your discipline, 
the contamination of your morals, the complication of calami- 
ties, foreign and domestic, that overwhelm your sinking country. 
Your dearest interests, your own liberties, the constitution itself, 
totters to the foundation. All this disgraceful danger, this multi- 
tude of misery, is the monstrous offspring of this unnatural war. 
We have been deceived and deluded too long. Let us now 
stop short. This is the crisis — the only crisis, of time and 
situation, to give us a possibility of escape from the fatal effects 
of our delusions. But if, in an obstinate and infatuated perse- 
verance in folly, we slavishly echo the peremptory words this 
day presented to us, nothing can save this devoted country from 
complete and final ruin. We madly rush into multiplied mise- 
ries and '^ confusion worse confounded." 
. Is it possible, can it be believed, that ministers are yet blind 
to this impending destruction ? — I did hope, that instead of this 
false and empty vanity, this overweening pride, engendering 
high conceits and presumptuous imaginations, that ministers 
would have humbled themselves in their errors, would have 
confessed and retracted them, and by an active, though a late 
repentance, have endeavored to redeem them. But, my lords, 
since they had neither sagacity to foresee, nor justice nor 
humanity to shun, these oppressive calamities ; since not even 
severe experience can make them feel, nor the imminent ruin 
of their country awaken them from their stupefaction, the 
guardian care of parHament must interpose. I shall therefore, 
my lords, propose to you an amendment to the address to his 
majesty, to be inserted immediately after the two first para- 
graphs of congratulation on the birth of a princess, to recom- 
mend an immediate cessation of hostilities, and the commence- 
ment of a treaty to restore peace and liberty to America, 
strength and happiness to England, security and permanent 
prosperity to both countries. — This, my lords, is yet in our 
power ; and let not the wisdom and justice of your lordships 
neglect the happy, and, perhaps, the only opportunity. By the 
establishment of irrevocable law, founded on mutual rights, and 



THE ADDRESS TO THE THRONE. 41 

ascertained by treaty, these glorious enjoyments may be firmly 
perpetuated. And let me repeat to your lordships, that the 
strong bias of America, at least of the wise and sounder parts 
of it, naturally inclines to this happy and constitutional recon- 
nexion with you. Notwithstanding the temporary intrigues 
with France, we may still be assured of their ancient and 
confirmed partiality to us. America and France cannot be 
congenial. There is something decisive and confirmed in the 
honest American, that will not assimilate to the futility and 
levity of Frenchmen. 

My lords, to encourage and confirm that innate inclination 
to this country, founded on every principle of affection, as well 
as consideration of interest ; to restore that favorable disposition 
into a permanent and powerful reunion with this country ; to 
revive the mutual strength of the empire; again to awe the 
house of Bourbon, instead of meanly truckling, as our present 
calamities compel us, to every insult of French caprice, and 
Spanish punctilio; to re-establish our commerce; to reassert 
our rights and our honor ; to confirm our interests, and renew 
our glories for ever, a consummation most devoutly to be 
endeavored ! and which, I trust, may yet arise from recon- 
ciHation with America ; I have the honor of submitting to you 
the following amendment, which I move to be inserted after 
the two first paragraphs of the address. 

" And that this house does most humbly advise and supphcate 
his majesty, to be pleased to cause the most speedy and effectual 
measures to be taken, for restoring peace in America : and that 
no time maybe lost in proposing an immediate cessation of 
hostilities there, in order to the opening of a treaty for the final 
settlement of the tranquillity of these invaluable provinces, by 
a removal of the unhappy causes of this ruinous civil war ; 
and by a just and adequate security against the return of the 
like calamities in times to come. And this house desire to 
offer the most dutiful assurances to his majesty, that they will, 
in due time, cheerfully co-operate with the magnanimity and 
tender goodness of his majesty, for the preservation of his 
people, by such explicit and most solemn declarations, and 
provisions of fundamental and revocable laws, as may be judged 
necessary for the ascertaining and fixing for ever the respective 
rights of Great Britain and her colonies." 

In the course of this debate, Lord Suffolk, secretary for the northern depart- 
ment, undertook to defend the employment of the Indians in the war. His 
lordship contended, that, besides its policy and necessity, the measure was 
also allowable on principle. For that " it was perfectly justifiable to use all 
the means that God and nature put into our hands .'" 

F 4* 



42 LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH ON 

I AM ASTONISHED ! (cxclaimed Lord Chatham, as he rose) — 
shocked! to hear such principles confessed — to hear them 
avowed in this house, or in this country: principles equally 
unconstitutional, inhuman, and unchristian ! 

My lords, I did not intend to have encroached again upon 
your attention; but I cannot repress my indignation. I feel 
myself impelled by every duty. My lords, we are called upon 
as members of this house, as men, as Christian men, to protest 
against such notions standing near the throne, polluting the ear 
of majesty. " That God and nature put into our hands !" I 
know^ not v^^hat ideas that lord may entertain of God and nature; 
but I know that such abominable principles are equally abhor- 
rent to religion and humanity. What ! to attribute the sacred 
sanction of God and nature to the massacres of the Indian 
scalping-knife — to the cannibal savage torturing, murdering, 
roasting, and eating ; literally, my lords, eating the mangled 
victims of his barbarous battles ! Such horrible notions shock 
every precept of religion, divine or natural, and every generous 
feehng of humanity. And, my lords, they shock every sentiment 
of honor ; they shock me as a lover of honorable war, and a 
detester of murderous barbarity. 

These abominable principles, and this more abominable 
avowal of them, demand the most decisive indignation. I call 
upon that right reverend bench, those holy ministers of the 
gospel, and pious pastors of our church; I conjure them to join 
in the holy work, and vindicate the religion of their God. I 
appeal to the wisdom and the law of this learned bench, to 
defend and support the justice of their country. I call upon the 
bishops, to interpose the unsullied sanctity of their lawn ; upon 
the learned judges, to interpose the purity of their ermine, to 
save us from this pollution. I call upon the honor of your 
lordships, to reverence the dignity of your ancestors, and to 
maintain your own. I call upon the spirit and humanity of my 
country, to vindicate the national character. I invoke the 
genius of the constitution. From the tapestry that adorns these 
walls, the immortal ancestor of this noble lord frowns with 
indignation at the disgrace of his country. In vain he led your 
victorious fleets against the boasted Armada of Spain ; in vain 
he defended and established the honor, the liberties, the religion, 
the Protestant religion, of this country, against the arbitrary 
cruelties of popery and the inquisition, if these more than popish 
cruelties and inquisitorial practices are let loose among us ; to 
turn forth into our settlements, among our ancient connexions, 
friends, and relations, the merciless cannibal, thirsting for the 
blood of man, woman, and child ! to send forth the infidel 
savage — against whom ? against your Protestant brethren ; to 



THE ADDRESS TO THE THRONE. 43 

lay waste their country, to desolate their dwelHngs, and extir- 
pate their race and name, with these horrible hell-hounds of 
savage war ! — hell-hounds, I say, of savage war. Spain armed 
herself with blood-hounds to extirpate the wretched natives of 
America ; and we improve on the inhuman example even of 
Spanish cruelty: we turn loose these savage hell-hounds against 
our brethren and countrymen in America, of the same language, 
laws, liberties, and rehgion ; endeared to us by every tie that 
should sanctify humanity. 

My lords, this awful subject, so important to our honor 
constitution, and our religion, demands the most solemn and 
effectual inquiry. And I again call upon your lordships, and 
the united powers of the state, to examine it thoroughly and 
decisively, and to stamp upon it an indelible stigma of the 
pubHc abhorrence. And I again implore those holy prelates 
of our religion, to do away these iniquities from among us. 
Let them perform a lustration ; let them purify this house, and 
this country, from this sin. • 

My lords, I am old and weak, and at present unable to say 
more ; but my feelings and indignation were too strong to have 
said less. I could not have slept this night in my bed, nor 
reposed my head on my pillow, without giving this vent to my 
eternal abhorrence of such preposterous and enormous prin- 
ciples. 

This speech had no effect. The address was agreed to. 



LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH, 

IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS, THE IITH OF DECEMBER, 1777, AGAINST 
A MOTION FOR AN ADJOURNMENT. 

My Lords, 
It is not with less grief than astonishment I hear the motion 
now made by the noble earl, at a time when the affairs of this 
country present on every side prospects full of awe, terror, 
and impending danger ; when, I will be bold to say, events of 
a most alarming tendency, little expected or foreseen, will 
shortly happen ; when a cloud that may crush this nation, and 
bury it in destruction for ever, is ready to burst and overwhelm 
us in ruin. At so tremendous a season, it does not become 
your lordships, the great hereditary council of the nation, to 
neglect your duty, to retire to your country-seats for six weeks 
in quest of joy and merriment, while the real state of public 
affairs calls for grief, mourning, and lamentation ; at least, for 
the fullest exertions of your wisdom. It is your duty, my lords, 
as the grand hereditary council of the nation, to advise your 
sovereign, to be the protectors of your country, to feel your 
own weight and authority. As hereditary counsellors, as mem- 
bers of this house, you stand between the crown and the peo- 
ple ; you are nearer the throne than the other branch of the 
legislature ; it is your duty to surround and protect, to counsel 
and supplicate it. You hold the balance. Your duty is to see 
that the weights are properly poised, that the balance remains 
even, that neither may encroach on the other, and that the 
executive power may be prevented, by an unconstitutional ex- 
ertion of even constitutional authority, from bringing the nation 
to destruction. My lords, I fear we are arrived at the very 
brink of that state ; and I am persuaded that nothing short of 
a spirited intei'position on your part, in giving speedy and whole- 
some advice to your sovereign, can prevent the people from 
feeling beyond remedy the full effects of that ruin which minis- 
ters have brought upon us. These calamitous circumstances 
ministers have been the cause of: and shall we, in such a state 
of things, when every moment teems with events productive 
of the most fatal narratives, shall we trust, during an adjourn- 
ment of six weeks, to those men who have brought those ca- 
lamities upon us, when, perhaps, our utter overthrow is plot- 
ting, nay, ripe for execution, without almost a possibility of 
prevention ? Ten thousand brave men have fallen victims to 



AGAINST THE ADJOURNMENT. 45 

ignorance and rashness. The only army you have in America 
may, by this time, be no more. This very nation remains no 
longer safe than its enemies think proper to permit. I do not 
augur ill. Events of a most critical nature may take place 
before our next meeting. Will your lordships, then, in such 
a state of things, trust to thfe guidance of men, who, in every 
single step of this cruel, this wicked war, from the very begin- 
ning, have proved themselves weak, ignorant, and mistaken ? 
I will not say, my lords, nor do I mean anything personal, or 
that they have brought premeditated ruin on this country. I 
will not suppose that they foresaw what has since happened ; 
but I do contend, my lords, that their want of wisdom, their 
incapacity, their temerity in depending on their own judgment, 
or their base compliances with the orders and dictates of others, 
perhaps caused by the influence of one or two individuals, have 
rendered them totally unworthy of your lordships' confidence, 
of the confidence of parliament, and those whose rights they 
are the constitutional guardians of, the people at large. A re- 
monstrance, my lords, should be carried to the throne. The 
king has been deluded by his ministers. They have been im- 
posed on by false information, or have, from motives best 
known to themselves, given apparent credit to what they have 
been convinced in their hearts was untrue. The nation has 
been betrayed into the ruinous measure of an American war 
by the arts of imposition, by their own credulity, through the 
means of false hopes, false pride, and promised advantages, 
of the most romantic and improbable nature. My lords, I do 
not wish to call your attention entirely to that point. I would 
fairly appeal to your own sentiments, whether I can be justly 
charged with arrogance or presumption, if I said, great and 
able as ministers think themselves, that all the wisdom of the 
nation is not confined to the narrow circle of their petty cabi- 
net. I might, I think, without presumption, say, that your lord- 
ships, as one of the branches of the legislature, may be sup- 
posed as capable of advising your sovereign, in the moment 
of difiSculty and danger, as any lesser council, composed of a 
fewer number ; and who, being already so fatally trusted, have 
betrayed a want of honesty, or a want of talents. Is it, my 
lords, within the utmost stretch of the most sanguine expecta- 
tion, that the same men who have plunged you into your pres- 
ent perilous and calamitous situation are the proper persons to 
rescue you from it ? No, my lords, such an expectation would 
be preposterous and absurd. I say, my lords, you are now spe- 
cially called upon to interpose. It is your duty to forego every 
call of business and pleasure, to give up your whole time to 
inquire into past misconduct ; to provide remedies for the pres- 



46 LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH 

ent ; to prevent future evils ; to rest on your arms, if I may 
use the expression, to v^^atch for the pubhc safety; to defend 
and support the throne, and if fate should so ordain it, to fall 
with becoming fortitude, with the rest of your fellow-subjects, 
in the general ruin. I fear this last must be the event of this 
mad, unjust, and cruel war. It i^ your lordships' duty to do 
everything in your power that it shall not — but, if it must be 
so, I trust your lordships and the nation will fall gloriously. 

My lords, as the first and most immediate object of your 
inquiry, I would recommend to you to consider the true state 
of our home defence. We have heard much from a noble lord 
in. this house, of the state of our navy. I cannot give an im- 
plicit belief to all I have heard on that important subject. I 
still retain my former opinion relative to the number of line-of- 
battle ships; but as an inquiry into the real state of the navy 
is destined to be the subject of future consideration, I do not 
wish to hear any more about it till that period arrives. I allow, 
in argument, that we have thirty-five ships of the line fit for 
actual service. I doubt much whether such a force would 
give us full command of the channel. I am certain, if it did, 
every other part of our possessions must lie naked and defence- 
less, in every quarter of the globe. 

I fear our utter destruction is at hand. What, my lords, is 
the state of our military defence ? I would not wish to expose 
our present weakness ; but weak as we are, if this war should 
be continued, as the public declaration of persons in high con- 
fidence with their sovereign would induce us to suppose, is this 
nation to be entirely stripped ? And if it should, would every 
soldier now in Britain be sufficient to give us an equahty 
to the force of America? I will maintain they would not. 
Where then -will men be procured ? Recruits are not to be 
had in this country. Germany will give no more. I have 
read in the newspapers of this day, and I have reason to be- 
lieve it true, that the head of the Germanic body has remon- 
strated against it, and has taken measures accordingly to pre- 
vent it. Ministers have, I hear, applied to the Swiss Cantons. 
The idea is preposterous. The Swiss never permit their troops 
to go beyond sea. But, my lords, even if men were to be pro- 
cured in Germany, how will you march them to the water- 
side ? Have not our ministers applied for the port of Ember- 
den, and has it not been refused ? I say, you will not be able 
to procure men even for your home defence, if some immediate 
steps be not taken. I remember, during the last war it was 
thought advisable to levy independent companies. They were, 
when completed, formed into battalions, and proved of great 
service. I love the army. I know its use. But I must never- 



AGAINST THE ADJOURNMENT. 47 

theless own, that I was a great friend to the measure of estab- 
Hshing a national militia. I remember the last war, that there 
were three camps formed of that corps at once in this king- 
dom. I saw them myself. One at Winchester, another in the 
west, at Plymouth ; and a third, if I recollect right, at Chat- 
ham. Whether the militia is at present in such a state as to 
answer the valuable purposes it did then, or is capable of being 
rendered so, I will not pretend to say ; but I see no reason 
why, in such a critical state of affairs, the experiment should 
not be made, and why it may not be put again on the former 
respectable footing. I remember, all circumstances consid- 
ered, when appearances were not nearly so melancholy and 
alarming as they are, that there were more troops in the county 
of Kent alone, for the defence of the kingdom, than there are 
now in the whole island. 

My lords, I contend that we have not, nor can procure, any 
force sufficient to subdue America. It is monstrous to think 
of it. There are several noble lords present, well acquainted 
with mihtary affairs. I call upon any one of them to rise and 
pledge himself, that the military force now within the kingdom 
is adequate to its defence, or that any possible force to be pro- 
cured from Germany, Switzerland, or elsewhere, will be equal 
to the conquest of America. I am too perfectly persuaded of 
their abilities and integrity, to expect any such assistance from 
them. Oh ! But if America is not to be conquered, she may 
be treated with. Conciliation is at length thought of. Terms 
are to be offered. Who are the persons that are to treat on the 
part of this afflicted and deluded country ? The very men who 
have been the authors of our misfortunes. The very men 
who have endeavored, by the most pernicious policy, the 
highest injustice and oppression, the most cruel and devastating 
war, to enslave those people they would conciliate, to gain the 
confidence and affection of those who halve survived the Indian 
tomahawk and German bayonet. Can your lordships entertain 
the most distant prospect of success from such a treaty and such 
negotiators? No, my lords, the Americans have virtue, and 
they must detest the principles of such men. They have under- 
standing, and too much wisdom, to trust to the cunning and 
narrow politics which must cause such overtures on the part of 
their merciless persecutors. My lords, I maintain that they 
would shun, with a mixture of prudence and detestation, any 
proposition coming from that quarter. They would receive 
terms from such men, as snares to allure and betray. They 
would dread them as ropes meant to be put about their legs, in 
order to entangle and overthrow them in certain ruin. My 
lords, supposing that our domestic danger, if at all, is far dis- 



48 LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH 

tant ; that our enemies will leave us at liberty to prosecute this 
war to the utmost of our ability; suppose your lordships should 
grant a fleet one day, an army another : all these, I do affirm, 
will avail nothing, unless you accompany it with advice. Minis- 
ters have been in error : experience has proved it ; and what is 
worse, they continue it. They told you in the beginning, that 
15,000 men would traverse all America, without scarcely an 
appearance of interruption. Two campaigns have passed since 
they gave us this assurance. Treble that number have been 
employed ; one of your armies, which composed two thirds of 
the force by which America was to be subdued, has been 
totally destroyed, and is now led captive through those pro- 
vinces you call rebellious. Those m.en whom you called 
cowards, poltroons, runaways, and knaves, are become victo- 
rious over your veteran troops : and, in the midst of victory, 
and flush of conquest, have set ministers an example of mode- 
ration and magnanimity well worthy of imitation. 

My lords, no time should be lost which may promise to im- 
prove this disposition in America, unless, by an obstinacy found- 
ed in madness, we wish to stifle those embers of aflection which, 
after all our savage treatment, do not seem as yet to have been 
entirely extinguished. While on one side we must lament the 
unhappy fate of that spirited officer, Mr. Burgoyne, and the 
gallant troops under his command, who were sacrificed to the 
wanton temerity and ignorance of ministers, we are as strongly 
compelled on the other to admire and applaud the generous, 
magnanimous conduct, the noble friendship, brotherly affection, 
and humanity of the victors, who, condescending to impute the 
horrid orders of massacre and devastation to their true authors, 
supposed that, as soldiers and EngHshmen, those cruel excesses 
could not have originated with the general, nor were consonant 
to the brave and humane spirit of a British soldier, if not com- 
pelled to it as an act of duty. They traced the first cause of 
those diabolic orders to their true source ; and, by that wise 
and generous interpretation, granted their professed destroyers 
terms of capitulation which they could be only entitled to as 
the makers of fair and honorable war. 

My lords, I should not have presumed to trouble you, if the 
tremendous state of this nation did not, in my opinion, make it 
necessary. Such as I have this day described it to be, I do 
maintain it is. The same measures are stiR persisted in ; and 
ministers, because your lordships have been deluded, deceived, 
and misled, presume that whenever the worst comes they will 
be enabled to shelter themselves behind parhament. This, my 
lords, cannot be the case. They have committed themselves 
and their measures to the fate of war, and they must abide the 



AGAINST THE ADJOURNMENT. 49 

issue. I tremble for this country. I am almost led to despair 
that we shall ever be able to extricate ourselves. At any rate, 
the day of retribution is at hand, when the vengeance of a much 
injured and afflicted people, will, I trust, fall heavily on the 
authors of their ruin ; and I am strongly inclined to beheve, 
that before the day to which the proposed adjournment shall 
arrive, the noble earl who moved it, will have just cause to 
repent of his motion. 



G 



MR. BURKE'S SPEECH, 

APRIL 19, 1774, ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 

Sir, 

I AGREE with the honorable gentleman who spoke last, that 
this subject is not new in this house. Very disagreeably to 
this house, very unfortunately to this nation, and to the peace 
and prosperity of this whole empire, no topic has been morie 
famihar to us. For nine long years, session after session, we 
have been lashed round and round this miserable circle of 
occasional arguments and temporary expedients. I am sure 
our heads must turn, and our stomachs nauseate with them. 
We have had them in every shape ; we have looked at them in 
every point of view. Invention is exhausted ; reason is fatigued ; 
experience has given judgment; but obstinacy is not yet con- 
quered. 

The honorable gentleman has made one endeavor more to 
diversify the form of this disgusting argument. He has thrown 
out a speech composed almost entirely of challenges. Chal- 
lenges are serious things ; and as he is a man of prudence as 
well as resolution, I dare say he has very well weighed those 
challenges before he delivered them. I had long the happiness 
to sit at the same side of the house, and to agree with the hon- 
orable gentleman on all the American questions. My senti- 
ments, I am sure, are well known to him ; and I thought I had 
been perfectly acquainted with his. Though I find myself 
mistaken, he will still permit me to use the privilege of an old 
friendship, he will permit me to apply myself to the house under 
the sanction of his authority ; and, on the various grounds he 
has measured out, to submit to you the poor opinions which I 
have formed, upon a matter of importance enough to demand 
the fullest consideration I could bestow upon it. 

He has stated to the house two grounds of deliberation ; one 
narrow and simple, and merely confined to the question on 
your paper : the other more large and more complicated ; com- 
prehending the whole series of the parliamentary proceedings 
with regard to America, their causes, and their consequences. 
With regard to the latter ground, he states it as useless, and 
thinks it may be even dangerous, to enter into so extensive a 
field of inquiry. . Yet, to my surprise, he had hardly laid down 
this restrictive proposition, to which his authority would have 
given so much weight, when directly, and with the same author- 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 51 

ity, he condemns it ; and declares it absolutely necessary to 
enter into the most ample historical detail. His zeal has thrown 
him a little out of his usual accuracy. In this perplexity, what 
shall we do, Sir, who are willing to submit to the law he gives 
us ? He has rej)robated in one part of his speech the rule he 
had laid down for debate in the other ; and after narrowing the 
ground for all those who are to speak after him, he takes an 
excursion himself, as unbounded as the subject and the extent 
of his great abiHties. 

Sir, when I cannot obey all his laws, I will do the best I 
can. I will endeavor to obey such of them as have the sanc- 
tion of his example ; and to stick to that rule, which, though 
not consistent with the other, is the most rational. He was 
certainly in the right when he took the matter largely. I can- 
not prevail on myself to agree with him in his censure of his 
own conduct. It is not, he will give me leave to say, either 
useless or dangerous. He asserts, that retrospection is not wise ; 
and the proper, the only proper, subject of inquiry, is, *' not 
how we got into this difficulty, but how we are to get out of 
it." In other words, we are, according to him, to consult our 
invention, and to reject our experience. The mode of delibe- 
ration he recommends is diametrically opposite to every rule 
of reason, and every principle of good sense established amongst 
mankind. For, that sense and that reason, I have always 
understood, absolutely to prescribe, whenever we are involved 
in difficulties from the measures we have pursued, that we 
should take a strict review of those measures, in order to cor- 
rect our errors if they should be corrigiblej or at least to avoid 
a dull uniformity in mischief, and the unpitied calamity of 
being repeatedly caught in the same snare. 

Sir, I will freely follow the honorable gentleman in his his- 
torical discussion, without the least management for men or 
measures, further than as they shall seem to me to deserve it. 
But before I go into that large consideration, because I would 
omit nothing that can give the house satisfaction, I wish to 
tread the narrow ground to which alone the honorable gentle- 
man, in one part of his speech has so strictly confined us. 

He desires to know, whether, if we were to repeal this tax, 
agreeably to the proposition of the honorable gentleman who 
made the motion, the Americans would not take post on this 
concession, in order to make a new attack on the next body of 
taxes ; and whether they would not call for a repeal of the duty 
on wine, as loudly as they do now for the repeal of the duty on 
tea? Sir, I can give no security on this subject. But I will do 
all that I can, and all that can be fairly demanded. To the 
experience which the honorable gentleman reprobates in' one 



52 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

instant, and reverts to in the next ; to that experience, without 
the least wavering or hesitation on my part, I steadily appeal ; 
and would to God there was no other arbiter to decide on the 
vote with which the house is to conclude this day ! 

When parhament repealed the stamp act in the year 1766, I 
affirm, first, that the Americans did not in consequence of this 
measure call upon you to give up the former parliamentary 
revenue which subsisted in that country ; or even any one of 
the articles which compose it. I affirm also, that when, depart- 
ing from the maxims of that repeal, you revived the scheme of 
taxation, and thereby filled the minds of the colonists with new 
jealousy, and all sorts of apprehensions, then it was that they 
quarrelled with the old taxes, as well as the new; then it was 
and not till then, that they questioned all the parts of your 
legislative power; and by the battery of such questions have 
shaken the solid structure of this empire to its deepest founda- 
tions. 

Of those two propositions I shall, before I have done, give 
such convincing, such damning proof, that however the con- 
trary may be whispered in circles, or bawled in newspapers, 
they never more will dare to raise their voices in this house. I 
speak with great confidence. I have reason for it. The min- 
isters are with me. They at least are convinced that the repeal 
of the stamp act had not, and that no repeal can have, the con- 
sequences which the honorable gentleman who defends their 
measures is so much alarmed at. To their conduct I refer him 
for a conclusive answer to this objection. I carry my proof 
irresistibly into the very body of both ministry and parliament ; 
not on any general reasoning growing out of collateral matter, 
but on the conduct of the honorable gentleman's ministerial 
friends on the new revenue itself. 

The act of 1767, which grants this tea duty, sets forth in its 
preamble, that it was expedient to raise a revenue in America, 
for the support of the civil government there, as well as for 
purposes still more extensive. To this support the act assigns 
six branches of duties. About two years after this act passed, 
the ministry, I mean the present ministry, thought it expedient 
to repeal five of the duties, and to leave (for reasons best known 
to themselves) only the sixth standing. Suppose any person at 
the time of that repeal, had thus addressed the minister : " Con- 
demning, as you do, the repeal of the stamp act, why do you 
venture to repeal the duties upon glass, paper, and painters* 
colors ? Let your pretence for the repeal be what it will, are 
you not thoroughly convinced, that your concessions will pro- 
duce, not satisfaction, but insolence in the Americans ; and that 
the giving up these taxes will necessitate the giving up of all 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 53 

the rest ?" This objection was as palpable then as it is now ; 
and it was as good for preserving the five duties as for retain- 
ing the sixth. Besides, the minister will recollect, that the re- 
peal of the stamp act had but just preceded his repeal ; and the 
ill policy of that measure (had it been so impolitic as it has been 
represented), and the mischiefs it produced, were quite recent. 
Upon the principles therefore of the honorable gentleman, upon 
the principles of the minister himself, the minister has nothing 
at all to answer. He stands condemned by himself, and by all 
his associates old and new, as a destroyer, in the first trust of 
finance, of the revenues : and in the first rank of honor, as a 
betrayer of the dignity of his country. 

Most men, especially great men, do not always know their 
well-wishers. I come to rescue that noble lord out of the 
hands of those he calls his friends ; and even out of his own. 
I will do him the justice he is denied at home. He has not 
been this wicked or imprudent man. He knew that a repeal 
had no tendency to produce the mischiefs which give so much 
alarm to his honorable friend. His work was not bad in its 
principle, but imperfect in its execution; and the motion on 
your paper presses him only to complete a proper plan, which, 
by some unfortunate and unaccountable error, he had left 
unfinished. 

I hope. Sir, the honorable gentleman who spoke last, is tho- 
roughly satisfied, and satisfied out of the proceedings of minis- 
try on their own favorite act, that his fears from a repeal are 
groundless. If he is not, I leave him, and the noble lord who 
sits by him, to settle the matter, as well as they can, together ; 
for if the repeal of American taxes destroys all our govern- 
ment in America — He is the man ! — and he is the worst of all 
repealers, because he is the last. 

But I hear it rung continually in my ears, now and former- 
ly — " the preamble ! what will become of the preamble, if you 
repeal this tax ? " — I am sorry to be compelled so often to ex- 
pose the calamities and disgraces of parliament. The pream- 
ble of this law, standing as it now stands, has the lie direct 
given to it by the provisionary part of the act; if that can be 
called provisionary which makes no provision. I should be 
afraid to express myself in this manner, especially in the face 
of such a formidable array of ability as is now drawn up be- 
fore me, composed of the ancient household troops of that side 
of the house, and the new recruits from this, if the matter 
were not clear and indisputable. Nothing but truth could give 
me this firmness ; but plain truth and clear evidence can be 
beat down by no ability. The clerk will be so good as to turn 
to the act, and to read this favorite preamble : 

5* 



54 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

" Whereas it is expedient that a revenue should be raised in 
your majesty's dominions in America, fm^ making a mat^e certain 
and Sidequsite provision for defraying the charge of the adminis- 
tration of justice, and support of civil government, in such 
provinces ivhere it shall be found necessary ; and toward further 
defraying • the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing 
the said dominions." 

You have heard this pompous performance. Now where is 
the revenue which is to do all these mighty things ? Five-sixths 
repealed — abandoned — sunk — gone — lost for ever. Does the 
poor solitary tea-duty support the purposes of this preamble ? 
Is not the supply there stated as effectually abandoned as if 
the tea-duty had perished in the general wreck? Here, Mr. 
Speaker, is a precious mockery — a preamble without an act — 
taxes granted in order to be repealed — and the reasons of the 
grant still carefully kept up ! This is raising a revenue in 
America! This is preserving dignity in England ! If you 
repeal this tax in compliance with the motion, I readily admit 
that you lose this fair preamble. Estimate your loss in it. The 
object of the act is gone already; and all you suffer is thei 
purging of the statute-book of the opprobrium of an empty,? 
absurd, and false recital. 

It has been said again and again, that the five taxes were 
repealed on commercial principles. It is so said in the paper 
in my hand ; a paper which I constantly carry about ; whichi 
I have often used, and shall often use again. What is got byf 
this paltry pretence of commercial principles I know not ; for, 
if your government in America is destroyed by the repeal of 
taxes, it is of no consequence upon what ideas the repeal is 
grounded. Repeal this tax too upon commercial principles, if 
you please. These principles will serve as well now as they 
did formerly. But you know that, either your objection to a 
repeal from these supposed consequences has no validity, or 
that this pretence never could remove it. This commercial 
motive never was believed by any man, either in America, 
which this letter is meant to soothe, or in England, which it is 
meant to deceive. It was impossible it should. Because every 
man, in the least acquainted with the detail of commerce, must 
know, that several of the articles on which the tax was re- 
pealed, were fitter objects of duties than almost any other ar- 
ticles that could possibly be chosen : without comparison more 
so, than the tea that was left taxed ; as infinitely less liable to 
be eluded by contraband.- 'The tax upon red and white lead 
was of this nature. You have, in this kingdom, an advantage 
in lead, that amounts to a monopoly. When you find yourself 
in this situation of advantage, you sometimes venture to tax 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. . 55 

even your own export. You did so, soon after the last war ; 
when, upon this principle, you ventured to impose a duty on 
coals. In all the articles of American contraband trade, who 
ever heard of the smuggling of red lead, and white lead ? You 
might, therefore, well enough, without danger of contraband, 
and without injury to commerce (if this were the whole con- 
sideration) have taxed these commodities. The same may be 
said of glass. Besides, some of the things taxed were so triv- 
ial, that the loss of the objects themselves and their utter anni-- 
hilation out of American commerce, would have been compar- 
atively as nothing. But is the article of tea such an object in 
the trade of England, as not to be felt, or felt but slightly, like 
white lead, and red lead, and painters' colors ? Tea is an ob- 
ject of far other nnportance. Tea is perhaps the most im- 
portant object, taking it with its necessary connexions, of any 
in the mighty circle of our commerce. If commercial princi- 
ples had been the true motives to the repeal, or had they been 
at all attended to, tea would have been the last article we 
should have left taxed for a subject of controversy. 

Sir, it is not a pleasant consideration; but nothing in the 
world can read so awful and so instructive a lesson, as the 
conduct of ministry in this business, upon the mischief of not 
having large and liberal ideas in the management of great 
affairs. Never have the servants of the state looked at the 
whole of your compHcated interests in one connected view. 
They have taken things, by bits and scraps, some at one time 
and one pretence, and some at another, just as they pressed, 
without any sort of regard to their relations or dependencies. 
They never had any kind of system, right or wrong ; but only 
invented occasionally some miserable tale for the day, in order 
meanly to sneak out of difficulties, into which they had proudly 
strutted. And they were put to all these shifts and devices, 
full of meanness and full of mischief, in order to pilfer piece- 
meal a repeal of an act, which they had not the generous 
courage, when they found and felt their error, honorably and 
fairly to disclaim. By such management, by the irresistible 
operation of feeble councils, so paltry a sum as three-pence 
in the eyes of a financier, so insignificant an article as tea in 
the eyes of a philosopher, have shaken the pillars of a com- 
mercial empire that circled the whole globe. 

Do you forget that, in the very last year, you stood on the 
precipice of general bankruptcy ? Your danger was indeed 
great. You were distressed in the affairs of the East India 
company ; and you well know what sort of things are involved 
in the comprehensive energy of that significant appellation. 
I am not called upon to enlarge to you on that danger, which 



56 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

you thought proper yourselves to aggravate, and display to 
the w^orld v^^ith all the parade of indiscreet declamation. The 
monopoly of the most lucrative trades, and the possession of 
imperial revenues, had brought you to the verge of beggary 
and ruin. Such v^as your representation— such, in some mea- 
sure, was your case. The vent of ten millions of pounds of 
this commodity, now locked up by the operation of an inju- 
dicious tax, and rotting in the warehouses of the company, 
would have prevented all this distress, and all that series of 
desperate measures which you thought yourselves obliged to 
take in consequence of it. America would have furnished 
that rent, which no other part of the world can furnish but 
America : where tea is next to a necessary of life ; and where 
the demand grows upon the supply. I hope our dear-bought 
East India committees have done us at least so much good, 
as to let us know, that without a more extensive sale of that 
article, our East India revenues and acquisitions can have no 
certain connexion with this country. It is through the Ameri- 
/ can trade of tea that your East India conquests are to be pre- 
w' vented from crushing you with their burthen. They are pon-. 
derous indeed; and they must have that great country to lean 
upon, or they tumble upon your head. It is the same folly 
that has lost you at orice the benefit of the west and the east. 
This folly has thrown open folding-doors to contraband; and 
will be the means of giving the profits of the trade of your 
colonies, to every nation but yourselves. Never did a people 
suffer so much for the empty words of a preamble. It must 
be given up. For on what principle does it stand ? This fa- 
mous revenue stands, at this hour, on all the debate, as a de- 
scription of revenue not as yet known in all the comprehen- 
sive (but too comprehensive !) vocabulary of finance — a pre- 
amhulary tax. It is indeed a tax of sophistry, a tax of ped- 
antry, a tax of disputation, a tax of war and rebellion, a tax 
for anything but benefit to the imposers, or satisfaction to the 
subject. 

Well ! but whatever it is, gentlemen will force the colonists 
to take the teas. You will force them? has seven years' 
struggle been yet able to force them? G, but it seems "we 
are in the right — the tax is trifling — in effect, it is rather an 
exoneration than an imposition ; three-fourths of the duty for- 
merly payable on teas exported to America is taken off; the 
place of collection is only shifted; instead of the retention of 
a shilling from the drawback here, it is three-pence custom 
paid in America." All this. Sir, is very true. But this is . 
the very folly and mischief of the act. Incredible as it may 
seem, you know that you have deliberately thrown away a 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 57 

large duty which you held secure and quiet in your hands, for 
the vain hope of getting one three-fourths less, through every 
hazard, through certain htigation, and possibly through war. 

The manner of proceeding in the duties on paper and glass, 
imposed by the same act, was exactly in the same spirit. 
There are heavy excises on those articles when used in Eng- 
land. On export, these excises are drawn back. But instead 
of withholding the drawback, which might have been done, 
with ease, without charge, without possibility of smuggling ; 
and instead of applying the money (money already in your 
hands) according to your pleasure, you began your operations 
in finance by flinging away your revenue ; you allowed the 
whole drawback on export, and then you charged the duty 
(which you had before discharged) payable in the colonies ; 
where it was certain the collection would devour it to the 
bone ; if any revenue were ever suffered to be collected at all. 
One spirit pervades and animates the whole mass. 

Could anything be a subject of more just alarm to America, 
than to see you go out of the plain high-road of finance, and 
give up your most certain revenues and your clearest interest, 
merely for the sake of insulting your colonies ? No man ever 
doubted that the commodity of tea could bear an imposition 
of three-pence. But no commodity will bear three-pence, or 
will bear a penny, when the general feelings of men are irri- 
tated, and two millions of people are resolved not to pay. 
The feelings of the colonies were formerly the feeHngs of 
Great Britain. Theirs were formerly the feehngs of Mr. Hamp- 
den when called upon for the payment of twenty shilhngs. 
Would twenty shillings have ruined Mr. Hampden's fortune? 
No! but the payment of half twenty shillings, on the principle 
it was demanded, would have made him a slave. It is the 
weight of that preamble, of which you are so fond, and not 
the weight of the duty, that the Americans are unable and 
unwilling to bear. 

It is then. Sir, upon the principle of this measure, and nothing 
else, that we are at issue. It is a principle of political expe- 
diency. Your act of 1767 asserts, that it is expedient to raise 
a revenue in America; your act of 1769, which takes away 
that revenue, contradicts the act of 1767, and, by something 
much stronger than words, asserts, that it is not expedient. It 
is a reflection upon your wisdom to persist in a solemn parlia- 
mentary declaration of the expediency of any object, for which, 
at the same time, you make no sort of provision. And pray. 
Sir, let not this circumstance escape you ; it is very material ; 
that the preamble of this act, which we wish to repeal, is not 
declaratwy of right, as some gentlemen seem to argue it ; it is 

H 



58 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

only a recital of the expediency of a certain exercise of a right 
supposed already to have been asserted ; an exercise you are 
now contending for by ways and means, which you confess, 
though they were obeyed, to be utterly insufficient for their 
purpose. You are therefore at this moment in the awkward 
situation of fighting for a phantom j a quiddity ; a thing that 
wants, not only a substance, but even a name ; for a thing, 
which is neither abstract right, nor profitable enjoyment. 

They tell you. Sir, that your dignity is tied to it. I know 
not how it happens, but this dignity of yours is a terrible 
encumbrance to you; for it has of late been ever at war with 
your interest, your equity, and every idea of your policy. 
Show the thing you contend for to be reason ; show it to be 
common sense ; show it to be the means of attaining some 
useful end ; and then I am content to allow it what dignity you 
please. But what dignity is derived from the perseverance in 
absurdity, is more than I ever could discern. The honorable 
gentleman has said well — indeed, in most of his general obser- 
vations I agree with him — he says, that his subject does not 
s'tand as it did formerly. Oh, certainly not ! every hour you 
continue on this ill-chosen ground, your difficulties thicken on 
you ; and therefore my conclusion is, remove from a bad posi- 
tion as quickly as you can. The disgrace, and the necessity 
of yielding, both of them, grow upon you every hour of your 
delay. 

But will you repeal the act, says the honorable gentleman, at 
this instant when America is in open resistance to your authority, 
and that you have just revived your system of taxation ? He 
thinks he has driven us into a corner. But thus pent up, I am 
content to meet him ; because I enter the lists supported by my 
old authority, his new friends, the ministers themselves. The 
honorable gentleman remembers, that about five years ago as 
great disturbances as the present prevailed in America on 
account of the new taxes. The ministers represented these 
disturbances as treasonable ; and this house thought proper, on 
that representation, to make a famous address for a revival, and 
for a new application, of a statute of Henry VUI. We besought 
the king, in that well-considered address, to inquire into treasons, 
and to bring the supposed traitors from America to Great Britain 
for trial. His majesty was pleased graciously to promise a 
compliance with our request. All the attempts from this side 
of the house to resist these violences, and to bring about a 
repeal, were treated with the utmost scorn. An apprehension 
of the very consequences now stated by the honorable gentle- 
man, was then given as a reason for shutting the door against 
all hope of such an alteration. And so strong was the spirit 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 59 

for supporting the new taxes, that the session concluded with 
the following remarkable declaration. After stating the vigor- 
ous measures which had been pursued, the speech from the 
throne proceeds : 

You have assured me of your firm support in the prosecution 
of them. Nothing, in my opinion, could be mm^e likely to enable 
the well disposed among my subjects in that part of the world, 
effectually to discourage and defeat the designs of the factious and 
seditious, than the hearty concurrence of every branch of the legis- 
lature, in maintaining the execution of the laws in every part 
of my dominions. 

After this, no man dreamt that a repeal under this ministry 
could possibly take place. The honorable gentleman knows as 
well as I, that the idea was utterly exploded by those who sway 
the house. This speech was made on the ninth day of May, 
1769. Five days after this speech, that is, on the 13th of the 
same month, the public circular letter, a part of which I am 
going to read to you, was written by Lord Hillsborough, secre- 
tary of state for the colonies. After reciting the substance of 
the king's speech, he goes on thus : 

" / can take upon me to assure you, notwithstanding insinuations 
to the contrary, from men with factious and seditious views, that 
his majesty's present administration have at no time entertained 
a design to propose to parliament to lay any further taxes upon 
America, for the purpose of RAISING A REVENUE ; and 
that it is at present their intention to propose, the next session of 
parliament, to take off the duties upon glass, paper, and colors, 
upon consideration of such duties having been laid contrary to 
the true principles of commerce. 

" These have always been, and still are, the sentiments of his 
majesty's present servants; and by which their conduct in respect 
to America has been governed. And his majesty relies upon 
your prudence and fidelity for such an explanation of his measures, 
as may tend to remove the prejudices which have been excited by the 
misrepresentations of those who are enemies to the peace and pros- 
perity of Great Britain and her colonies ; and to re-establish that 
mutual confidence and affection, upon which the glory and safety 
of the British empire depend.''^ 

Here, Sir, is a canonical book of ministerial scripture; the 
general epistle to the Americans. What does the gentleman 
say to it ? Here a repeal is promised ; promised without condi- 
tion ; and while your authority was actually resisted. I pass 
by the pubhc promise of a peer relative to the repeal of taxes 
by this house. I pass by the use of the king's name in a matter 
of supply, that sacred and reserved right of the Commons. I 
conceal the ridiculous figure of parliament, hurling its thunders 



go MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

at the gigantic rebellion of America ; and then, five days after, 
prostrate at the feet of those assemblies we affected to despise ; 
begging them, by the intervention of our ministerial sureties, 
to receive our submission ; and heartily promising amendment. 
These might have been serious matters formerly ; but we are 
grown wiser than our fathers. Passing, therefore, from the 
constitutional consideration to the mere policy, does not this 
letter imply, that the idea of taxing America for the purpose 
of revenue is an abominable project ; when the ministry suppose 
none but factious men, and with seditious views, could charge 
them with it ? does not this letter adopt and sanctify the Ame- 
rican distinction of taxing for revenue ? does it not formally 
reject all future taxation on that principle ? does it not state the 
ministerial rejection of such principle of taxation, not as the 
occasional, but the constant opinion of the king's servants ? 
does it not say (I care not how consistently, but does it not say) 
that their conduct with regard to America has been always 
governed b.y this policy ? It goes a great deal further. These 
excellent and trusty servants of the king, justly fearful lest they 
themselves should have lost all credit with the world, bring out 
the image of their gracious sovereign from the inmost and most 
sacred shrine, and they pawn him as a security for their 
promises. — " His majesty relies on your prudence and fidelity for 
such an explanation of his measures." These sentiments of 
the minister, and these measures of his majesty, can only relate 
to the principle and practice of taxing for a revenue; and 
accordingly Lord Botetourt, stating it as such, did, with great 
propriety, and in the exact spirit of his instructions, endeavor to 
remove the fears of the Virginian assembly, lest the sentiments, 
■which it seems (unknown to the world) had always been those 
of the ministers, and by which their conduct in respect to Ame- 
rica had been governed, should, by some possible revolution, 
favorable to wicked American taxes, be hereafter counteracted. 
He addresses them in this manner : 

It may possibly be objected, that, as his Majesty's present 
administration are not immortal, their successors may be inclined 
to attempt to undo what the present ministers shall have attempted to 
perform ; and to that objection I can give you but this answer ; that 
it is my firm opinion, that the 'plan I have stated to you nill certainly 
take place, and that it will never be departed from ; and so deter- 
mined am I for ever to abide by it, that I ivill be content to be 
declared infamous, if I do not, to the last hour of my life, at all 
times, in all places, and upon all occasions, exert every power with 
which I either am, or ever shall be legally invested, in order to 
obtain and maintain for the continent of America that satisfaction 
which I have been authorized to promise this day, hy the confiden- 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 61 

tial servants of our gracious sovereign, who to my certain know- 
ledge rates his honor so high, that he would rather part with his 
crown, than preserve it by deceit. 

A glorious and true character ! which (since we suffer his 
ministers with impunity to answer for his ideas of taxation) we 
ought to make it our business to enable his majesty to preserve 
in all its lustre. Let him have character, since ours is no 
more ! Let some part of government be kept in respect ! 

This epistle was not the letter of lord Hillsborough solely ; 
though he held the official pen. It was the letter of the noble 
lord upon the floor, and all the king's then ministers, who (with 
I think the exception of two only) are his ministers at this hour. 
The very first news that a British parHament heard of what it 
was to do with the duties which it had given and granted to 
the king, w^as by the pubHcation of the votes of American 
assemblies. It was in America that your resolutions were pre- 
declared. It was from thence that we knew to a certainty, 
how much exactly, and not a scruple more nor less, we were to 
repeal. We were unworthy to be let into the secret of our 
own conduct. The assemblies had confidential communications 
from his majesty's confidenticd servants. We were nothing but 
instruments. Do you, after this, w^onder, that you have no 
weight and no respect in the colonies ? After this, are you sur- 
prised, that parliament is every day and everywhere losing (I 
feel it with sorrow, I utter it with reluctance) that reverential 
affection, which so endearing a name of authority ought ever to 
carry with it ; that you are obeyed solely from respect to the 
bayonet ; and that this house, the ground and pillar of freedom, 
is itself held up only by the treacherous under-pinning and 
clumsy buttresses of arbitrary power ? 

If this dignity, which is to stand in the place of just policy 
and common sense, had been consulted, there was a time for 
preserving it, and for reconcihng it with any concession. If in 
the session of 1768, that session of idle terror and empty 
menaces, you had, as you were often pressed to do, repealed 
these taxes; then your strong operations would have come 
justified and enforced, in case your concessions had been re- 
turned by outrages. But, preposterously, you began with vio- 
lence ; and before terrors could have any effect, either good or 
bad, your ministers immediately begged pardon, and promised 
that repeal to the obstinate Americans which they had refused 
in an easy, good-natured, complying British parliament. The 
assemblies, which had been publicly and avowedly dissolved 
for their contumacy, are called together to receive ymir submis- 
sion. Your ministerial directors blustered like tragic tyrants 
here; and then went mumping with a sore leg in America, 

6 



62 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

canting and whining, and complaining of faction, which repre- 
sented them as friends to a revenue from the colonies. I hope 
nobody in this house will hereafter have the impudence to 
defend American taxes in the name of ministry. The moment 
they do, with this letter of attorney in my hand, I will tell them, 
in the authorized terms, they are wretches, " with factious and 
seditious views ; enemies to the peace and prosperity of the 
mother country and the colonies," and subverters "of the 
mutual affection and confidence on which the glory and safety 
of the British empire depend." 

After this letter, the question is no more on propriety or 
dignity. They are gone already. The faith of your sovereign 
is pledged for the political principle. The general declaration 
in the letter goes to the whole of it. You must therefore either 
abandon the scheme of taxing ; or you must send the ministers 
tarred and feathered to America, who dare to hold out the 
royal faith for a renunciation for all taxes for revenue. Them 
you must punish, or this faith you must preserve. The preser- 
vation of this faith is of more consequence than the duties on 
red lead, or white lead, or on broken glass, or atlas-ordinary, or 
demy-fine, or Mue-royal, or bastard,, or fooVs-cap, which you 
have given up ; or the three-pence on tea which you retained. 
The letter went stamped with the public authority of this king- * 
dom. The instructions for the colony government go under no 
other sanction ; and America cannot believe, and will not obey 
you, if you do not preserve this channel of communication 
sacred. You are now punishing the colonies for acting on 
distinctions, held out by that very ministry which is here shining 
in riches, in favor, and in power ; and urging the punishment 
of the very offence to which they had themselves been the 
tempters. 

Sir, if reasons respecting simply your own commerce, which 
is your own convenience, were the sole grounds of the repeal 
of the five duties ; why does lord Hillsborough, in disclaiming 
in the name of the king and ministry their ever having had an 
intent to tax for revenue, mention it as the means " of re-estab- 
lishing the confidence and affection of the colonies ?" Is it a 
way of soothing others, to assure them that you will take good 
care oi yourself ? The medium, the only medium, for regaining 
their affection and confidence, is, that you will take off some- 
thing oppressive to their minds. Sir, the letter strongly enforces 
that idea : for though the repeal of the taxes is promised on 
commercial principles, yet the means of counteracting "the 
insinuations of men with factious and seditious views," is, by a 
disclaimer of the intention of taxing for revenue, as a constant 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 63 

invariable sentiment and rule of conduct in the government of 
America. 

I remember that the noble lord on the floor, not in a former 
debate to be sure (it would be disorderly to refer to it, I suppose 
I read it somewhere), but the noble lord was pleased to say, 
that he did not conceive how it could enter into the head of 
man to impose such taxes as those of 1767 ; I mean those taxes 
which he voted for imposing, and voted for repealing ; as being 
taxes, contrary to all the principles of commerce, laid on 
British manufactures. 

I dare say the noble lord is perfectly well read, because the 
duty of his particular office requires he should be so, in all our 
revenue laws ; and in the pohcy which is to be collected out of 
them. Now, Sir, when he had read this act of American 
revenue, and a little recovered from his astonishment, I suppose 
he made one step retrograde (it is but one) and looked at the 
act which stands just before in the statute book. The American 
revenue act is the forty-fifth chapter ; the other to which I refer 
is the forty-fourth of the same session. These two acts are 
both to the same purpose ; both revenue acts ; both taxing out 
of the kingdom ; and both taxing British manufactures exported. 
As the 45th is an act for raising a revenue in America, the 
44th is an act for raising a revenue in the Isle of Man. The 
two acts perfectly agree in all respects, except one. In the act 
for taxing the Isle of Man, the noble lord will find (not, as in 
the American act, four or five articles) but almost the whole 
body, of British manufactures, taxed from two and a half to 
fifteen per cent, and some articles, such as that of spirits, a great 
deal higher. You did not think it uncommercial to tax the 
whole mass of your manufactures, and, let me add, your agri- 
culture too; for, I now recollect, British corn is there also 
taxed up to ten per cent, and this too in the very head-quarters, 
the very citadel of smuggling, the Isle of Man. Now will the 
noble lord condescend to tell me why he repealed the taxes on 
your manufactures sent out to America, and not the taxes on 
the manufactures exported to the Isle of Man? The principle 
was exactly the same, the objects charged infinitely more 
extensive, the duties, without comparison, higher. Why ? why, 
notwithstanding all his childish pretexts, because the taxes were 
quietly submitted to in the Isle of Man ; and because they 
raised a flame in America. Your reasons were political, not 
commercial. The repeal was made, as Lord Hillsborough's 
letter well expresses it, to regain " the confidence and affection 
of the colonies, on which the glory and safety of the British 
empire depend." A wise and just motive surely, if ever there 
was such. But the mischief and dishonor is, that you have 



64 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

not done what you have given the colonies just cause to expect, 
when your ministers disclaimed the idea of taxes for a revenue. 
There is nothing simple, nothing manly, nothing ingenuous, 
open, decisive, or steady, in the proceeding, with regard either 
to the continuance or the repeal of the taxes. The whole has 
an air of littleness and fraud. The article of tea is slurred over 
in the circular letter, as it were by accident — nothing is said 
of a resolution either to keep that tax, or to give it up. There 
is no fair deahng in any part of the transaction. 

If you mean to follow your true motive and your public faith, 
give up your tax on tea for raising a revenue, the principle of 
which has, in effect, been disclaimed in your name ; and which 
produces you no advantage; no, not a penny. Or, if you choose 
to go on with a poor pretence instead of a solid reason, and 
will still adhere to your cant of commerce, you have ten thou- 
sand times more strong commercial reasons for giving up this 
duty on tea, than for abandoning the five others that you have 
already renounced. 

The American consumption of teas is annually, I believe, 
worth £300,000 at the least farthing. If you urge the Ameri- 
can violence as a justification of your perseverance in enforcing 
this tax, you know that you can never answer this plain ques- 
tion — Why did you repeal the others given in the same act, 
whilst the very same violence subsisted ? — But you did not find 
the violence cease upon that concession. No ! because the 
concession was far short of satisfying the principle which lord 
Hillsborough had abjured ! or even the pretence on which the 
repeal of the other taxes was announced : and because, by 
enabling the East India company to open a shop for defeating 
the American resolution not to pay that specific tax, you mani- 
festly showed a hankering after the principle of the act which 
you formerly had renounced. Whatever road you take leads 
to a comphance with this motion. It opens to you at the end 
of every vista. Your commerce, your pohcy, your promises, 
your reasons, your pretences, your consistency, your inconsis- 
tency, — all jointly oblige you to this repeal. 

But still it sticks in our throats, if we go so far, the Ameri- 
cans will go farther. — We do not know that. We ought, from 
experience, rather to presume the contrary. Do we not know 
for certain, that the Americans are going on as fast as possible, 
whilst we refuse to gratify them ? can they do more, or can 
they do worse, if we yield this point? I think this concession 
will rather fix a turnpike to prevent a further progress. It is 
impossible to answer for bodies of men. But I am sure the 
natural effect of fidelity, clemency, kindness in governors, is 
peace, good-will, order, and esteem, on the part of the govern- 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION 65 

ed. I would certainly, at least, give these fair principles a fair 
trial; which, since the making of this act to this hour, they 
never have had. 

Sir, the honorable gentleman having spoken what he thought 
necessary upon the narrow part of the subject, I have given 
him, I hope, a satisfactory answer. He next presses me by a 
variety of direct challenges and oblique reflections to say some- 
thing on the historical part. I shall, therefore. Sir, open myself 
fully on that important and delicate subject ; not for the sake 
of telling you a long story (which, I know, Mr. Speaker, you 
are not particularly fond of,) but for the sake of the weighty 
instruction that, I flatter myself, will necessarily result from it. 
It shall not be longer, if I can help it, than so serious a matter 
requires. 

Permit me then. Sir, to lead your attention very far back ; 
back to the act of navigation ; the corner-stone of the policy of 
this country, with regard to its colonies. Sir, that policy was, 
from the beginning, purely commercial; and the commercial 
system was wholly restrictive. It was the system of a 
monopoly. No trade was let loose from that constraint, but 
merely to enable the colonists to dispose of what, in the course 
of your trade, you could not take ; or to enable them to dispose 
of such articles as we forced upon them, and for which, with- 
out some degree of liberty, they could not pay. Hence all 
your specific and detailed enumeration : hence the innumerable 
checks and counterchecks : hence that infinite variety of paper 
chains by which you bind together this complicated system of 
the colonies. This principle of commercial monopoly runs 
through no less than twenty-nine acts of parliament, from the 
year 1660 to the unfortunate period of 1764. 

In all those acts the system of commerce is estabhshed, as 
that, from whence alone you proposed to make the colonies 
contribute (I mean directly and by the operation of your super- 
intending legislative power) to the strength of the empire. I 
venture to say, that during that whole period, a parliamentary 
revenue from thence was never once in contemplation. Ac- 
cordingly, in all the number of laws passed with regard to the 
plantations, the words which distinguish revenue laws, specifi- 
cally as such, were, I think, premed.itatedly avoided. I do not 
say. Sir, that a form of words alters the nature of the law, or 
abridges the power of the lawgiver. It certainly does not. 
However, titles and formal preambles are not always idle 
words ; and the lawyers frequently argue from them. I state 
these facts to show, not what was your right, but what has been 
your settled policy. Our revenue laws have usually a title, 
purporting their being grants ; and the words give and grant 

I 6* 



66 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

usually precede the enacting parts. Although duties were 
imposed on America in acts of King Charles the Second, and 
in acts of King WilHam, no one title of giving " an aid to his 
majesty," or any other of the usual titles to revenue acts, was 
to be found in any of them till 1764 ; nor were the words " give 
and grant" in any preamble until the 6th of George the Second. 
However the title of this act of George the Second, notwith- 
standing the words of donation, considers it merely as a regu- 
lation of trade, " an act for the better securing of the trade of 
his majesty's sugar colonies in America." This act was made 
on a compromise of all, and at the express desire of a part, of 
the colonies themselves. It was therefore in some measure 
with their consent ; and having a title directly purporting only 
a commercial regulation, and being in truth nothing more, the 
words were passed by, at a time when no jealousy was enter- 
tained, and things were little scrutinized. Even Governor 
Bernard, in his second printed letter, dated in 1763, gives it as 
his opinion, that " it was an act of prohibition, not of revenue." 
This is certainly true, that no act avowedly for the purpose of 
revenue, and with the ordinary title and recital taken together, 
is found in the statute book until the year I have mentioned ; 
that is, the year 1764. All before this period stood on com- 
mercial regulation and restraint. The scheme of a colony 
revenue by British authority appeared therefore to the Ameri- 
cans in the light of a great innovation ; the words of Governor 
Bernard's ninth letter, written in Nov. 1765, state this idea 
very strongly : " it must," says he, " have been supposed, such 
an innovation as a parliamentary taxation, would cause a great 
alarm, and meet with much opposition in most parts of America; 
it was quite new to the people, and had no visible bounds set to 
it." After stating the weakness of government there, he says, 
" was this a time to introduce so great a novelty as a parhament- 
ary inland taxation in America ?" Whatever the right might 
have been, this mode of using it was absolutely new in policy 
and practice. 

Sir, they who are friends to the schemes of American revenue 
say, that the commercial restraint is full as hard a law for 
America to live under. I think so too. I think it, if uncom- 
pensated, to be a condition of as rigorous servitude as men can 
be subject to. But America bore it from the fundamental act 
of navigation until 1764. — Why? because men do bear the 
inevitable constitution of their original nature with all its 
infirmities. The act of navigation attended the colonies from 
their infancy, grew with their growth, and strengthened with 
their strength. They were confirmed in obedience to it, even 
more by usage than by law. They scarcely had remembered 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 67 

a time when they were not subject to such restraint. Besides, 
they were indemnified for it by a pecuniary compensation. 
Their monopolist happened to be one of the richest men in the 
world. By his immense capital (primarily employed, not for 
their benefit, but his own) they were enabled to proceed with 
their fisheries, their agriculture, their ship-building (and their 
trade too within the limits), in such a manner as got far the 
start of the slow languid operations of unassisted nature. This 
capital was a hot-bed to them. Nothing in the history of 
mankind is like their progress. For my part, I never cast an 
eye on their flourishing commerce, and their cultivated and 
commodious fife, but they seem to me rather ancient nations 
grown. to perfection through a long series of fortunate events, 
and a train of successful industry, accumulating wealth in many 
centuries, than the colonies of yesterday ; than a set of miser- 
able outcasts, a few years ago, not so much sent as thrown out, 
on the bleak and barren shore of a desolate wilderness three 
thousand miles from all civilized intercourse. 

All this was done by England, whilst England pursued trade, 
and forgot revenue. You not only acquired commerce, but 
you actually created the very objects of trade in America ; and 
by that creation you raised the trade of this kingdom at least 
four-fold. America had the compensation of your capital, 
which made her bear her servitude. She had another compen- 
sation, which you are now going to take away from her. She 
had, except the commercial restraint, every characteristic 
mark of a free people in all her internal concerns. She had 
the image of the British constitution. She had the substance. 
She was taxed by her own representatives. She chose most 
of her own magistrates. She paid them all. She had in eflfect 
the sole disposal of her own internal government. This whole 
state of commercial servitude and civil liberty, taken together, 
is certainly not perfect freedom ; but comparing it with the 
ordinary circumstances of human nature, it was a happy and 
a liberal condition. 

I know. Sir, that great and not unsuccessful pains have been 
taken to inflame our minds by an outcry, in this house and out 
of it, that in America the act of navigation neither is, nor ever 
was, obeyed. But if you take the colonies through, I affirm, 
that its authority never was disputed; that it was nowhere 
disputed for any length of time ; and on the whole, that it was 
well observed. Wherever the act pressed hard, many indi- 
viduals indeed evaded it. This is nothing. These scattered 
individuals never denied the law, and never obeyed it. Just as 
it happens whenever the laws of trade, whenever the laws of 
revenue, press hard upon the people in England ; in that case 



63 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

all your shores are full of contraband. Your right to give a 
monopoly to the East India company, your right to lay immense 
duties on French brandy, are not disputed in England. You 
do not make this charge on any man. But you know that 
there is not a creek from Pentland Frith to the Isle of Wight, 
in which they do not smuggle immense quantities of teas, East 
India goods, and brandies. I take it for granted, that the 
authority of Governor Bernard on this point is indisputable. 
Speaking of these laws, as they regarded that part of America 
now in so unhappy a condition, he says, ** I believe they are 
nowhere better supported than in this province ; I do not pre- 
tend that it is entirely free from a breach of these laws ; but 
that such a breach, if discovered, is justly punished." What 
more can you say of the obedience to any laws in any country 1 
An obedience to these laws formed the acknowledgment, insti- 
tuted by yourselves, for your superiority; and was the payment 
you originally imposed for your protection. 

Whether you were right or wrong in establishing the colonies 
on the principles of commercial monopoly rather than on that 
of revenue, is at this day a problem of mere speculation. You 
cannot have both by the same authority. To join together the 
restraints of an universal internal and external monopoly, with 
an universal internal and external taxation, is an unnatural 
union ; perfect uncompensated slavery. You have long since 
decided for yourself and them ; and you and they have pros- 
pered exceedingly under that decision. 

This nation. Sir, never thought of departing from that choice 
until the period immediately on the close of the last war. Then 
a scheme of government new in many things seemed to have 
been adopted. I saw, or thought I saw, several symptoms of 
a great change, whilst I sat in your gallery, a good while 
before I had the honor of a seat in this house. At that period 
the necessity was established of keeping up no less than twenty 
new regiments, with twenty colonels capable of seats in this 
house. This scheme was adopted with very general applause 
from all sides, at the very time that, by your conquests in 
America, your danger from foreign attempts in that part of the 
world was much lessened, or indeed rather quite over. When 
this huge increase of military establishment was resolved on, a 
revenue was to be found to support so great a burthen. Country 
gentlemen, the great patrons of economy, and the great resistors 
of a standing armed force, would not have entered with much 
alacrity into the vote for so large and so expensive an army, 
if they had been very sure that they were to continue to pay 
for it. But hopes of another kind were held out to them ; and 
in particular, I well remember that Mr. Townshend, in a brilliant 



ON AMERICAN TAPXTION. 69 

harangue on this subject, did dazzle them, by playing before 
their eyes the image of a revenue to be raised in America. 

Here began to dawn the first glimmering of this new colony 
system. It appeared more distinctly afterwards, when it was 
devolved upon a person to w^hom, on other accounts," this 
country owes very great obligations. I do believe, that he had 
a very serious desire to benefit the public. But with no small 
study of the detail, he did not seem to have his view, at least 
equally, carried to the total circuit of our affairs. He generally 
considered his objects in lights that were rather too detached. 
Whether the business of an American revenue was imposed 
upon him altogether ; whether it was entirely the result of his 
own speculation ; or, what is more probable, that his own ideas 
rather coincided with the instructions he had received ; certain 
it is, that, with the best intentions in the world, he first brought 
this fatal scheme into form, and established it by act of par- 
Hament. 

No man can believe, that at this time of day I mean to lean 
on the venerable memory of a great man, whose loss we deplore 
in common. Our little party-differences have been long ago 
composed; and I have acted more with him, and certainly 
with more pleasure with him, than ever I acted against him. 
Undoubtedly Mr. Grenville was a first-rate figure in this country. 
With a masculine understanding, and a stout and resolute heart, 
he had an application undissipated and unwearied. He took 
pubhc business, not as a duty which he was to fulfil, but as a 
pleasure he was to enjoy ; and he seemed to have no dehght 
out of this house, except in such things as some way related to 
the business that was to be done within it. If he was ambitious, 
I will say this for him, his ambition was of a noble and generous 
strain. It was to raise himself, not by the low pimping politics 
of a court, but to win his way to power, through the laborious 
gradations of pubHc service ; and to secure himself a well-earned 
rank in parliament, by a thorough knowledge of its constitution, 
and a perfect practice in all its business. 

Sir, if such a man fell into errors, it must be from defects 
not intrinsical ; they must be rather sought in the particular 
habits of his life ; which, though they do not alter the ground- 
work of character, yet tinge it with their own hue. He was 
bred in a profession. He was bred to the law, which is, in my 
opinion, one of the first and noblest of human sciences; a 
science which does more to quicken and invigorate the under- 
standing, than all the other kinds of learning put together ; but 
it is not apt, except in persons very happily born, to open and 
to liberalize the mind exactly in the same proportion. Passing 
from that study, he did not go very largely into the world ; but 



70 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

plunged into business ; I mean into the business of office ; and 
the limited and fixed methods and forms established there. 
Much knowledge is to be had undoubtedly in that line ; and 
there is no knowledge which is not valuable. But it may be 
truly said, that men too much conversant in office, are rarely 
minds of remarkable enlargement. Their habits of office are 
apt to give them a turn to think the substance of business not 
to be much more important than the forms in which it is con- 
ducted. These forms are adapted to ordinary occasions ; and 
therefore persons who are nurtured in office, do admirably well, 
as long as things go on in their common order ; but when the 
high roads are broken up, and the waters out, when a new and 
troubled scene is opened, and the file affords no precedent, then 
it is that a greater knowledge of mankind, and a far more 
extensive comprehension of things, is requisite than ever office 
gave, or than office can ever give. Mr. Grenville thought 
better of the wisdom and power of human legislation than in 
truth it deserves. He conceived, and many conceived along 
with him, that the flourishing trade of this country was greatly 
owing to law and institution, and not quite so much to liberty; 
for but too many are apt to believe regulation to be commerce, 
and taxes to be revenue. Among regulations, that which stood 
first in reputation was his idol. I mean the act of navigation. 
He has often professed it to be so. The policy of that act is, 
I readily admit, in many respects well understood. But I do 
say, that if the act be suffered to run the full length of its 
principle, and is not changed and modified according to the 
change of times and the fluctuation of circumstances, it must 
do great 'mischief, and frequently even defeat its own purpose. 
After the war, and in the last years of it, the trade of Ame- 
rica had increased far beyond the speculations of the most 
sanguine imaginations. It swelled out on every side. It filled 
all its proper channels to the brim. It overflowed with a rich 
redundance, and breaking its banks on the right and on the 
left, it spread out upon some places, where it was indeed im- 
proper, upon others where it was only irregular. It is the 
nature of all greatness not to be exact ; and great trade will 
always be attended with considerable abuses. The contraband 
will always keep pace in some measure with the fair trade. 
It should stand as a fundamental maxim, that no vulgar pre- 
caution ought to be employed in the cure of evils, which are 
closely connected with the cause of our prosperity, Perhaps 
this great person turned his eyes somewhat less than was just, 
towards the incredible increase of the fair trade ; and looked 
with something of too exquisite a jealousy towards the contra- 
band. He certainly felt a singular degree of anxiety on the 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 71 

subject ; and even began to act from that passion earlier than 
is commonly imagined. For whilst he was first lord of the 
admiralty, though not strictly called upon in his official line, 
he presented a very strong memorial to the lords of the trea- 
sury, (my Lord Bute was then at the head of the board;) 
heavily complaining of the growth of the illicit commerce in 
America. Some mischief happened even at that time from 
this over-earnest zeal. Much greater happened afterwards, 
when it operated with greater power in the highest department 
of the finances. The bonds of the act of navigation were 
straitened so much, that America was on the point of having 
no trade, either contraband or legitimate. They found, under 
the construction and execution then used, the act no longer 
trying but actually strangling them. All this coming with 
new enumerations of commodities ; with regulations which in 
a manner put a stop to the mutual coasting intercourse of the 
colonies ; with the appointment of courts of admiralty under 
various improper circumstances ; with a sudden extinction of 
the paper currencies; with a compulsory provision for the 
quartering of soldiers; the people of America thought them- 
selves proceeded against as delinquents, or at • best as people 
under suspicion of delinquency ; and in such a manner, as they 
imagined, their recent services in the war did not at all merit. 
Any of these innumerable regulations, perhaps, would not have 
alarmed alone ; some might be thought reasonable ; the multi- 
tude struck them with terror. 

But the grand manoeuvre in that business of new regulating 
the colonies, was the 15th act of the fourth of George III. ; 
which, besides containing several of the matters to which I 
have just alluded, opened a new principle : and here properly 
began the second period of the policy of this country with 
regard to the colonies; by which the scheme of a regular 
plantation parliamentary revenue was adopted in theory, and 
settled in practice. A revenue not substituted in the place of, 
but superadded to, a monopoly; which monopoly was enforced 
at the same time with additional strictness, and the execution 
put into military hands. 

, This act. Sir, had, for the first time, the title of " granting 
duties in the colonies and plantations of America;" and for 
the first time, it was asserted in the preamble, " that it was 
just and necessary that a revenue should be raised there." 
Then came the technical words of *' giving and granting," 
and thus a complete American revenue act was made in all 
the forms, and with a full avowal of the right, equity, policy, 
and even necessity of taxing the colonies, without any formal 
eonsent of theirs. There are contained also in the preamble 



72 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

to that act these very remarkable words — the commons, &c. 
— " being desirous to make some provision in the present ses- 
sion of parhament towards raising the said revenue." By 
these v^rords it appeared to the colonies, that this act v^as but 
a beginning of sorrows ; that every session was to produce 
something of the same kind ; that we were to go on from day 
to day, in charging them with such taxes as we pleased, for 
such a military force as we should think proper. Had this 
plan been pursued, it was evident that the provincial assem- 
blies, in which the Americans felt all their portion of impor- 
tance, and beheld their sole image of freedom, were ipso facto 
annihilated. This ill prospect before them seemed to be bound- 
less in extent, and endless in duration. Sir, they were not mis- 
taken. The ministry valued themselves when this act passed, 
and when they gave notice' of the stamp act, that both of the 
duties came very short of their ideas of American taxation. 
Great was the applause of this measure here. In England we 
cried out for new taxes on America, whilst they cried out that 
they were nearly crushed with those which the war and their 
own grants had brought upon them. 

Sir, it has been said in the debate, that when the first Ame- 
rican revenue act (the act of 1764, imposing the port duties) 
passed, the Americans did not object to the principle. It is 
true, they touched it but very tenderly. It was not a direct 
attack. They were, it is true, as yet novices ; as yet unac- 
customed to direct attacks upon any of the rights of parlia- 
ment. The duties were port duties, like those they had been 
accustomed to bear; with this difference, that the title was not 
the same, the preamble not the same, and the spirit altogether 
unUke. But of what service is this observation to the cause 
of those that make it ? It is a full refutation of the pretence 
for their present cruelty to America ; for it shows, out of their 
own mouths, that our colonies were backward to enter into 
the present vexatious and ruinous controversy. 

There is also another circulation abroad, (spread with a 
malignant intention, which I cannot attribute to those who say 
the same thing in this house) that Mr. Grenville gave the 
colony agents an option for their assemblies to tax themselves, 
which they had refused. I find that much stress is laid on 
this, as a fact. However, it happens neither to be true nor 
possible. I will observe first, that Mr. Grenville never thought 
fit to make this apology for himself in the innumerable debates 
that were had upon the subject. He might have proposed to 
the colony agents, that they should agree in some mode of 
taxation as the ground of an act of parliament. But he never 
could have proposed that they should tax themselves on requi- 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 73 

sition, which is the assertion of the day. Indeed, Mr. Gren- 
ville well knew, that the colony agents could have no general 
powers to consent to it; and they had no time to consult their 
assemblies for particular powers, before he passed his first 
revenue act. If you compare dates, you will find it impossi- 
ble. Burthened as the agents knew the colonies were at that 
time, they could not give the least hope of such grants. His 
own favorite governor was of opinion that the Americans were 
not then taxable objects : 

" Nor was the time less favorable to the equity of such a taxa- 
tion, . I don^t mean to dispute the reasonableness of America con- 
tributing to the charges of Great Britain when she is able ; nor, 
I believe, would the Americans themselves have disputed it, at a 
proper time and season. But it should be considered, that the 
American governments themselves have, in the prosecution of the 
late war, contracted very large debts ; lohich it will take some years 
to pay off', and in the mean time occasion very burdensome taxes 
for that purpose only. For instance, this government, which is as 
much beforehand as any, raises every year £37,500 sterling for 
sinking their debt, and must continue it for four years longer at 
least before it will be clear," 

These are the words of Governor Bernard's letter to a mem- 
ber of the old ministry, and which he has since printed. Mr. 
Grenville could not have made this proposition to the agents, 
for another reason. He was of opinion, which he has declared 
in this house an hundred times, that the colonies could not 
legally grant any revenue to the crown ; and that infinite mis- 
chiefs would be the consequence of such a power. When Mr. 
Grenville had passed the first revenue act, and in the same 
session had made this house come to a resolution for laying a 
stamp-duty on America, between that time and the passing the 
stamp act into a law, he told a considerable and most respect- 
able merchant, a member of this house, whom I am truly sorry 
I do not now see in his place, when he represented against this 
proceeding, that if the stamp-duty was disliked, he was willing 
to exchange it for any other equally productive ; but that, if 
he objected to the Americans being taxed by parHament, he 
might save himself the trouble of the discussion, as he was 
determined on the measure. This is the fact, and, if you please, 
I will mention a very unquestionable authority for it. 

Thus, Sir, I have disposed of this falsehood. But falsehood 
has a perennial spring. It is said, that no conjecture could be 
made of the dislike of the colonies to the principle. This is as 
untrue as the other. After the resolution of the house, and 
before the passing of the stamp act, the colonies of Massachu- 
setts Bay and New York did send remonstrances, objecting to 

K 7 



74 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

this mode of parliamentary taxation. What was the conse- 
quence? They were suppressed: they were put under the 
table; notwithstanding an order of council to the contrary, by 
the ministry which composed the very council that had made 
the order; and thus the house proceeded to its business of taxing 
without the least regular knowledge of the objections which 
were made to it. But to give that house its due, it was not 
over-desirous to receive information, or to hear remonstrance. 
On the 15th of February 1765, whilst the stamp act was under 
deliberation, they refused with scorn even so much as to receive 
four petitions presented from so respectable colonies as. Con- 
necticut, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Carolina ; besides one 
from the traders of Jamaica. As to the colonies, they had no 
alternative left to them, but to disobey ; or to pay the taxes 
imposed by that parliament which was not suffered, or did not 
suffer itself, even to hear them remonstrate upon the subject. 

This was the state of the colonies before his majesty thought 
fit to change his ministers. It stands upon no authority of 
mine. It is proved by uncontrovertible records. The honor- 
able gentleman has desired some of us to lay our hands upon 
our hearts, and answer to his queries upon the historical part 
of this consideration ; and by his manner (as well as my eyes 
could discern it) he seemed to address himself to me. 

Sir, I will answer him as clearly as I am able, and with 
great openness ; I have nothing to conceal. In the year sixty- 
five, being in a very private station, far enough from any line 
of business, and not having the honor of a seat in this house, it 
was my fortune, unknowing and unknown to the then ministry, 
by the intervention of a common friend, to become connected 
with a very noble person, and at the head of the treasury 
department. It was indeed in a situation of little rank and no 
consequence, suitable to the mediocrity of my talents and pre- 
tensions. But a situation near enough to enable me to see, as 
well as others, what was going on ; and I did see in that noble 
person such sound principle, such an enlargement of mind, such 
clear and sagacious sense, and such unshaken fortitude, as have 
bound me, as well as others much better than me, by an inviola- 
ble attachment to him from that time forward. Sir, lord Rock- 
ingham very early in that summer received a strong represent- 
ation from many weighty English merchants and manufac- 
turers, from governors of provinces and commanders of men 
of war, against almost the whole of the American commercial 
regulation, and particularly with regard to the total ruin which 
was threatened to the Spanish trade. I believe. Sir, the noble 
lord soon saw his way in this business. But he did not rashly 
determine against acts which it might be supposed were the 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 75 

result of much deliberation. However, Sir, he scarcely began 
to open the ground, when the whole veteran body of office 
took the alarm. A violent outcry of all (except those who 
knew and felt the mischief) was raised against any alteration. 
On one hand, his attempt was a direct violation of treaties and 
pubhc law. — On the other, the act of navigation and all the 
corps of trade laws were drawn up in array against it. 

The first step the noble lord took, was to have the opinion of 
his excellent, learned, and ever-lamented friend the late Mr. 
Yorke, then attorney-general, on the point of law. When he 
knew that formally and officially, which in substance he had 
known before, he immediately dispatched orders to redress the 
grievance. But I will say it for the then minister, he is of that 
constitution of mind, that I know he would have issued, on the 
same critical occasion, the very same orders, if the acts of 
trade had been, as they were not, directly against him ; and 
would have cheerfully submitted to the equity of parliament 
for his indemnity. 

On the conclusion of this business of the Spanish trade, the 
news of the troubles, on account of the stamp act, arrived in 
England. It was not until the end of October that these 
accounts were received. No sooner had the sound of that 
mighty tempest reached us in England, than the whole of the 
then opposition, instead of feeling humbled by the unhappy issue 
of their measures, seemed to be infinitely elated, and cried out, 
that the ministry, from envy to the glory of their predecessors, 
were prepared to repeal the stamp act. Near nine years after, 
the honorable gentleman takes quite opposite ground, and now 
challenges me to put my hand to my heart, and s*ay, whether 
the ministry had resolved on the repeal till a considerable time 
after the meeting of parhament. Though I do not very well 
know what the honorable gentleman wishes to infer from the 
admission, or from the denial, of this fact, on which he so 
earnestly adjures me ; I do put my hand on my heart, and 
assure him, that they did not come to a resolution directly to 
repeal. They weighed this matter as its difficulty and impor- 
tance required. They considered maturely among themselves. 
They consulted with all who could give advice or information. 
It was not determined until a little before the meeting of par- 
liament ; but it was determined, and the main fines of their own 
plan marked out, before that meeting. Two questions arose 
(I hope I am not going into a narrative troublesome to the 
house.) 

[A cry of, go on, go on,] 

The first of the two considerations was, whether the repeal 
should be total, or whether only partial ; taking out everything 



76 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

burthensome and productive, and reserving only an empty 
acknovi^ledgment, such as a stamp on cards or dice. The other 
question was, on what principle the act should be repealed ? 
On this head also two principles were started. One, that the 
legislative rights of this country, with regard to America, were 
not entire, but had certain restrictions and limitations. The 
other principle was, that taxes of this kind were contrary to 
the fundamental principles of commerce on which the colonies 
were founded ; and contrary to every idea of political equity ; 
by which equity we are bound, as much as possible, to extend 
the spirit and benefit of the British constitution to every part 
of the British dominions. The option, both of the measure, 
and of the principle of repeal, was made before the session ; 
and I wonder how any one can read the king's speech at the 
opening of that session, without seeing in that speech both the 
repeal and the declaratory act very sufficiently crayoned out. 
Those who cannot see this can see nothing. 

Surely the honorable gentleman will not think that a great 
deal less time than was then employed, ought to have been 
spent in dehberation; when he considers that the news of the 
troubles did not arrive till towards the end of October. The 
parliament sat to fill the vacancies on the 14th day of Decem- 
ber, and on business the 14th of the following January. 

Sir, a partial repeal, or, as the bon ton of the court then 
was, a modification, would have satisfied a timid, unsystematic, 
procrastinating ministry, as such a measure has since done 
such a ministry. A modification is the constant resource of 
weak undeciding minds. To repeal by a denial of our right 
to tax in the preamble (and this too did not want advisers,) 
would have cut, in the heroic style, the Gordian knot with a 
sword. Either measure would have cost no more than a day's 
debate. But when the total repeal was adopted on principles 
of policy, of equity, and of commerce ; this plan made it neces- 
sary to enter into many and difficult measures. It became 
necessary to open a very large field of evidence commensu- 
rate to these extensive views. But then this labor did knight's 
service. It opened the eyes of several to the true state of the 
American affairs; it enlarged their ideas; it removed preju- 
dices; and it conciliated the opinions and affections of men. 
The noble lord, who then took the lead in administration, my 
honorable friend under me, and a right honorable gentleman 
(if he will not reject his share, and it was a large one, of this 
business) exerted the most laudable industry in bringing before 
you the fullest, most impartial, and least-garbled body of evi- 
dence that ever was produced to this house. I think the in- 
quiry lasted in the committee for six weeks ; and at its con- 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 77 

elusion this house, by an independent, noble, spirited, and un- 
expected majority; by a majority that will redeem all the 
acts ever done by majorities in parliament; in the teeth of 
all the old mercenary Swiss of state, in despite of all the 
speculators and augurs of political events, in defiance of the 
whole embattled legion of veteran pensioners and practised 
instruments of a court, gave a total repeal to the stamp act, 
and (if it had been so permitted) a lasting peace to this whole 
empire. 

I state. Sir, these particulars, because this act of spirit and 
fortitude has lately been, in the circulation of the season, and 
in some hazarded declamations in this house, attributed to 
timidity. If, Sir, the conduct of ministry, in proposing the 
repeal, had arisen from timidity with regard to themselves, it 
would have been greatly to be condemned. Interested timid- 
ity disgraces as much in the cabinet, as personal timidity 
does in the field. But timidity, with regard to the well-being 
of our country, is heroic virtue. The noble lord who then 
conducted affairs, and his worthy colleagues, whilst they trem- 
bled at the prospect of such distresses as you have since 
brought upon yourselves, were not afraid steadily to look in 
the face that glaring and dazzling influence at which the eyes 
of eagles have blenched. He looked in the face one of the 
ablest, and, let me say, not the most scrupulous oppositions, 
that perhaps ever was in this house, and withstood it, unaided 
by, even one of the usual supports of administration. He did 
this when he repealed the stamp act. He looked in the face 
a person he had long respected and regarded, and whose aid 
was then particularly wanting ; I mean lord Chatham. He did 
this when he passed the declaratory act. 

It is now given out for the usual purposes, by the usual 
emissaries, that lord Rockingham did not consent to the re- 
peal of this act until he was bullied into it by lord Chatham ; 
and the reporters have gone so far as publicly to assert, in a 
hundred companies, that the honorable gentleman under the 
gallery, who proposed the repeal in the American committee, 
had another set of resolutions in his pocket directly the re- 
verse of those he moved. These artifices of a desperate 
cause are, at this time, spread abroad, with incredible care, in 
every part of the town, from the highest to the lowest compa- 
nies ; as if the industry of the circulation were to make amends 
for the absurdity of the report. 

Sir, whether the noble lord is of a complexion to be bullied 
by lord Chatham, or by any man, I must submit to those who 
know him. I confess, when I look back to that time, I con- 
sider him as placed in one of the most trying situations in 

7# 



78 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

which, perhaps, any man ever stood. In the house of peers 
there were very few of the ministry, out of the noble lord's 
own particular connexion, (except lord Egmont, who acted, 
as far as I could discern, an honorable and manly part,) that 
did not look to some other future arrangement, which warped 
his politics. There were in both houses new and menacing 
appearances, that might very naturally drive any other, than 
a most resolute minister, from his measure or from his sta- 
tion. The household troops openly revolted. The allies of 
ministry (those, I mean, who supported some of their mea- 
sures, but refused responsibility for any) endeavored to under- 
mine their credit, and to take ground that must be fatal to 
the success of the very cause which they would be thought 
to countenance. The question of the repeal was brought on 
by ministry in the committee of this house, in the very instant 
when it was known that more than one court negotiation was 
carrying on with the heads of the opposition. Everything, 
upon every side, was full of traps and mines. Earth below 
shook; heaven above menaced; all the elements of ministerial 
safety were dissolved. It was in the midst of this chaos of 
plots and counter-plots ; it was in the midst of this compli- 
cated warfare against public opposition and private treachery, 
that the firmness of that noble person was put to the proof. 
He never stirred from his ground ; no, not an inch. He re- 
mained fixed and determined, in principle, in measure, and in 
conduct. He practised no managements. He secured no re- 
treat. He sought no apology. 

I will likewise do justice, I ought to do it, to the honorable 
gentleman who led us in this house. Far from the dupHcity 
wickedly charged on him, he acted his part with alacrity and 
resolution. We all felt inspired by the example he gave us, 
down even to myself, the weakest in that phalanx. I declare 
for one, I knew well enough (it could not be concealed from 
anybody) the true state of things; but, in my life, I never 
came with so much spirits into this house. It was a time for 
a man to act in. We had powerful enemies ; but we had faith- 
ful and determined friends ; and a glorious cause. We had a 
great battle to fight; but we had the means of fighting ; not as 
now, when our arms are tied behind us. We did fight that 
day, and conquer. 

I remember, Sir, with a melancholy pleasure, the situation 
of the honorable gentleman who made the motion for the re- 
peal ; in that crisis, when the whole trading interest of this 
empire, crammed into your lobbies, with a trembhng and anx- 
ious expectation, waited, almost to a winter's return of light, 
their fate from your resolutions. When, at length you had 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 79 

determined in their favor, and your doors, thrown open, showed 
them the figure of their dehverer in the well-earned triumph 
of his important victory, from the whole of that grave multi- 
tude there arose an involuntary burst of gratitude and trans- 
port. They jumped upon him like children on a long-absent 
father. They clung about him as captives about their re- 
deemer. All England, all America, joined to his applause. 
Nor did he seem insensible to the best of all earthly rewards, 
the love and admiration of his fellow-citizens. Ho'pe elevated 
and joy brightened his crest. I stood near him; and his face, 
to use the expression of the scripture of the first martyr, *' his 
face was as if it had been the face of an angel." I do not 
know how others feel ; but if I had stood in that situation, I 
never would have exchanged it for all that kings in their pro- 
fusion could bestow. I did hope that that day's danger and 
honor would have been a^ bond to hold us all together for 
ever. But, alas ! that, with other pleasing visions, is long since 
vanished. 

Sir, this act of supreme magnanimity has been represented, 
as if it had been a measure of an administration, that, having 
no scheme of their own, took a middle line, pilfered a bit from 
one side and a bit from the other. Sir, they took no middle 
line. They differed fundamentally from the schemes of both 
parties ; but they preserved the objects of both. They pre- 
served the authority of Great Britain. They preserved the 
equity of Great Britain. They made the declaratory act ; 
they repealed the stamp act. They did both fully ; because 
the declaratory act was without qualification; and the repeal 
of the stamp-act total This they did in the situation I have 
described. 

Now, Sir, what will the adversary say to both these acts ? 
If the principle of the declaratory act was not good, the prin- 
ciple we are contending for this day is monstrous. If the prin- 
ciple of the repeal was not good, w^hy are we not at war for a 
real, substantial, effective revenue? If both were bad, why 
has this ministry incurred all the inconveniences of both and 
of all schemes ? Why have they enacted, repealed, enforced, 
yielded, and now attempt to enforce again ? 

Sir, I think I may as well now, as at any other time, speak 
to a certain matter of fact, not wholly unrelated to the question 
under your consideration. We, who would persuade you to 
revert to the ancient pohcy of this kingdom, labor under the 
effect of this short current phrase, which the court leaders have 
given out to all their corps, in order to take away the credit of 
those who would prevent you from that frantic war you are 
going to wage upon your colonies. Their cant is this ; " All 



80 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

the disturbances in America have been created by the repeal 
of the stamp act." I suppress for a moment my indignation at 
the falsehood, baseness, and absurdity of this most audacious 
assertion. Instead of remarking on the motives and character 
of those w^ho have issued it for circulation, I v^ill clearly lay 
before you the state of America, antecedently to that repeal ; 
after the repeal; and since the renewal of the schemes of 
American taxation. 

It is said, that the disturbances, if there were any, before the 
repeal, were slight; and without difficulty or inconvenience 
might have been suppressed. For an answer to this assertion 
I will send you to the great author and patron of the stamp 
act, who certainly meaning well to the authority of this coun- 
try, and fully apprized of the state of that, made, before a 
repeal was so much as agitated in this house, the motion which 
is on your journals ; and which, to save the clerk the trouble 
of turning to it, I will now read to you. It was for an amend- 
ment to the address of the 1 7th of December, 1765 : 

" To express our just resentment and indignation at the out- 
rageous tumults and insurrections which have been excited and 
carried on in North America ; and at the resistance given hy open 
and rebellious force, to the execution of the laws in that part of his 
majesty's dominions. And to assure his majesty, that his faithful 
commons, animated with the warmest duty and attachment to his 
royal person and government, will firmly and effectually support 
his majesty in all such measures as shall be necessary for pre- 
serving and supporting the legal dependence of the colonies on the 
mother country, &c. &c. 

Here was certainly a disturbance preceding the repeal ; such 
a disturbance as Mr. Grenville thought necessary to qualify by 
the name of an insurrection, and the epithet of a rebellious 
force : terms much stronger than any, by which, those who 
then supported this motion, have ever since thought proper to 
distinguish the subsequent disturbances in America. They 
were disturbances which seemed to him and his friends to jus- 
tify as strong a promise of support, as hath been usual to give 
in the beginning of a war with the most powerful and declared 
enemies. When the accounts of the American governors came 
before the house, they appeared stronger even than the warmth 
of public imagination had painted them ; so much stronger, 
that the papers on your table bear me out in saying, that all 
the late disturbances, which have been at one time the minis- 
ter's motives for the repeal of five out of six of the new court 
taxesj and are now his pretences for refusing to repeal that 
sixth, did not amount — ^why do I compare them ? no, not to a 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 81 

tenth part of the tumuUs and violence which prevailed long 
before the repeal of that act. 

Ministry cannot refuse the authority of the commander in 
chief, general Gage, who, in his letter of the 4th of November, 
from New York, thus represents the state of things : 

" It is difficult to say, from the highest to the lowest, who has 
not been accessary to this insurrection, either by writing or 
mutual agreements to oppose the act, by what they are pleased to 
term all legal opposition to it Nothing effectual has been proposed, 
either to prevent or quell the tumult. The rest of the provinces 
are in the same situation as to a positive refusal to take the 
stamps ; and threatening those who shall take them, to plunder and 
murder them ; and this affair stands in all the provinces, that 
unless the act, from its own nature, enforce itself, nothing but a 
very considerable military force can do if^ 

It is remarkable. Sir, that the persons who formerly trum- 
peted forth the most loudly, the violent resolutions of assem- 
blies ; the universal insurrections ; the seizing and burning the 
stamped papers ; the forcing the stamp officers to resign their 
commissions under the gallows; the riffing and pulling down 
the houses of magistrates ; and the expulsion from their country 
of all who dared to write or speak a single word in defence of 
the powers of parliament ; these very trumpeters are now the 
men that represent the whole as a mere trifle ; and choose to 
date all the disturbances from the repeal of the stamp act, 
which put an end to them. Hear your officers abroad, and let 
them refute this shameless falsehood, who, in all their corre- 
spondence, state the disturbances as owing to their true causes, 
the discontent of the people, from the taxes. You have this 
evidence in your own archives — and it will give you complete 
satisfaction; if you are not so far lost to all parliamentary 
ideas of information, as rather to credit the lie of the day, than 
the records of your own house. 

Sir, this vermin of court reporters, when they are forced 
into day upon one point, are sure to burrow in another; but 
they shall have no refuge ; I will make them bolt out of all their 
holes. Conscious that they must be baffled, when they attribute 
a precedent disturbance to a subsequent measure, they take the 
other ground, almost as absurd, but very common in modern 
practice, and very wicked ; which is, to attribute the ill effect 
of ill-judged conduct to the arguments which had been used 
to dissuade us from it. They say, that the opposition made in 
parhament to the stamp act at the time of its passing, encour- 
aged the Americans to their resistance. This has even formally 
appeared in print in a regular volume, from an advocate of that 
faction, a Dr. Tucker. This Dr. Tucker is already a dean, 

L 



82 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

and his earnest labors in this vineyard will, I suppose, raise him 
to a bishopric. But this assertion too, just Hke the rest, is false. 
In all the papers which have loaded your table ; in all the vast 
crowd of verbal witnesses that appeared at your bar, witnesses 
which were indiscriminately produced from both sides of the 
house ; not the least hint of such a cause of disturbance has 
appeared. As to the fact of a strenuous opposition to the 
stamp act, I sat as a stranger in your gallery when the act 
was under consideration. Far from anything inflammatory, I 
never heard a more languid debate in this house. No more 
than two or three gentlemen, as I remember, spoke against the 
act, and that with great reserve and remarkable temper. There 
was but one division in the whole progress of the bill ; and the 
minority did not reach to more than 39 or 40. In the house 
of lords I do not recollect that there was any debate or division 
at all. I am sure there was no protest. In fact, the affair 
passed with so very, very little noise, that in town they scarcely 
knew the nature of what you were doing. The opposition to 
the bill in England never could have done this mischief, 
because there scarcely ever was less of opposition to a bill of 
consequence. 

Sir, the agents and distributors of falsehoods have, with their 
usual industry, circulated another lie of the same nature with 
the former. It is this, that the disturbances arose from the 
account which had been received in America of the change in 
the ministry. No longer awed, it seems, with the spirit of the 
former rulers, they thought themselves a match for what our 
calumniators choose to quahfy by the name of so feeble a min- 
istry as succeeded. Feeble in one sense these men certainly 
may be called ; for with all their effbrts, and they have made i 
many, they have not been able to resist the distempered vigor, I 
and insane alacrity with which you are rushing to your ruin. 
But it does so happen, that the falsity of this circulation is (Hke 
the rest) demonstrated by indisputable dates and records. | 

So little was the change known in America, that the letters j 
of your governors, giving an account of these disturbances j 
long after they had arrived at their highest pitch, w^ere all ' 
directed to the old ministry, and particularly to the earl of Hal- 
ifax, the secretary of state corresponding with the colonies, 
without once in the smallest degree intimating the slightest 
suspicion of any ministerial revolution whatsoever. The ministry 
was not changed in England until the 10th day of July, 1765. 
On the 14th of the preceding June, governor Fauquier from 
Virginia writes thus ; and writes thus to the earl of Halifax : 
^' Government is set at defiance, not having strength enough in 
her hands to enforce obedience to the laws of the community. The 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 83 

private distress, which every man feels, increases the general dis- 
satisfaction at the duties laid by the stamp act, which breaks out, 
and shows itself upon every trifling occasion." The general dis- 
satisfaction had produced, some time before, that is, on the 29th 
of May, several strong public resolves against the stamp act ; 
and those resolves are assigned by governor Bernard, as the 
cause of the insurrections in Massachusetts Bay, in his letter of 
the 15th of August, still addressed to the earl of Halifax; and 
he continued to address such accounts to that minister quite to 
the 7th of September of the same year. Similar accounts, and 
of as late a date, were sent from other governors, and all 
directed to lord Halifax. Not one of these letters indicates 
the slightest idea of a change, either known, or even appre- 
hended. 

Thus are blown away the insect race of courtly falsehoods ! 
thus perish the miserable inventions of the wretched runners 
for a wretched cause, which they have fly-blown into every 
weak and rotten part of the country, in vain hopes that when 
their maggots had taken wing, their importunate buzzing might 
sound something like the public voice ! 

Sir, I have troubled you sufficiently with the state of Ame- 
rica before the repeal. Now I turn to the honorable gentleman 
who so stoutly challenges us, to tell, whether, after the repeal, 
the provinces were quiet? This is coming home to the point. 
Here I meet him directly ; and answer most readily. They were 
quiet. And I, in my turn, challenge him to prove when, and 
where, and by whom, and in what numbers, and with what 
violence, the other laws of trade, as gentlemen assert, were 
violated in consequence of your concession ? or that even your 
other revenue laws were attacked? But I quit the vantage- 
ground on which I stand, and where I might leave the burthen 
of the proof upon him : I walk down upon the open plain, and 
undertake to show, that they were not only quiet, but showed 
many unequivocal marks of acknowledgment and gratitude. 
And to give him every advantage, I select the obnoxious colony 
of Massachusetts Bay, which at this time (but without hearing 
her) is so heavily a culprit before parliament — I will select their 
proceedings even under circumstances of no small irritation. 
For, a little imprudently, I must say, governor Bernard mixed 
in the administration of the lenitive of the repeal no small 
acrimony arising from matters of a separate nature. Yet see, 
Sir, the effect of that lenitive, though mixed with these bitter 
ingredients ; and how this rugged people can express themselves 
on a measure of concession. 

" If it is not in our power" (say they in their address to 
governor Bernard) " in so full a manner as will be expected, to 



84 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

show our respectful gratitude to the mother country, or to make a 
dutiful and affectionate return to the indulgence of the king and 
parliament, it shall he no fault of ours; for this we intend, and 
hope lue shall be able fully to effect." 

Would to God that this temper had been cultivated, managed, 
and set in action ! other effects than those which we have since 
felt would have resulted from it. On the requisition for com- 
pensation to those who had suffered from the violence of the 
populace, in the same address they say, " The recommendation 
enjoined by Mr. Secretary Conway^s letter, and in consequence 
(hereof made to us, we will embrace the first convenient opportunity 
to consider and actupon." They did consider; they did act upon 
it. They obeyed the requisition. I know the mode has been 
chicaned upon; but it was substantially obeyed; and much 
better obeyed, than I fear the parliamentary requisition of this 
session will be, though enforced by all your rigor, and backed 
with all your power. In a word, the damages of popular fury 
were compensated by legislative gravity. Almost every other 
part of America in various ways demonstrated their gratitude. 
I am bold to say, that so sudden a calm recovered after so 
violent a storm is without parallel in history. To say that no 
other disturbance should happen from any other cause, is folly. 
But as far as appearances went, by the judicious sacrifice of one 
law, you procured an acquiescence in all that remained. After 
this experience, nobody shall persuade me, when a whole people 
are concerned, that acts of lenity are not means of conciliation. 

I hope the honorable gentleman has received a fair and full 
answer to his question. 

I have done with the third period of your policy ; that of 
your repeal ; and the return of your ancient system, and your 
ancient tranquilHty and concord. Sir, this period was not as 
long as it was happy. Another scene was opened, and other 
actors appeared on the stage. The state, in the condition I 
have described it, was dehvered into the hands of Lord Chatham 
— a great and celebrated name ; a name that keeps the name 
of this country respectable in every other on the globe. It 
may be truly called, 

Clarum et venerabile nomen 
Gentibus, et multum nostrsB quod proderat urbi. 

^ Sir, the venerable age of this great man, his merited rank, 
his superior eloquence, his splendid qualities, his eminent services, 
the vast space he fills in the eye of mankind ; and, more than 
all the rest, his fall from power, which, like death, canonizes 
and sanctifies a great character, \\i\\ not suffer me to censure 
any part of his conduct. I am afraid to flatter him ; I am sure- 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 85 

I. am not disposed to blame him. Let those who have betrayed 
him by their adulation, insnlt him with their malevolence. But 
what I do not presume to censure, I may have leave to lament. 
For a wise man, he seemed to me, at that time, to be governed 
too much by general maxims. I speak with the freedom of 
history, and I hope without ofience. One or two of these 
maxims, flowing from an opinion not the most indulgent to our 
unhappy species, and surely a little too general, led him into 
measures that were greatly mischievous to himself; and for 
that reason, among others, perhaps fatal to his country ; 
measures, the etfects of which, I am afraid, are for ever incura- 
ble. He made an administration, so checkered and speckled ; 
he put together a piece of joinery, so crossly indented and 
whimsicallv dove-tailed; a cabinet so variously inlaid; such a 
piece of diversified Mosaic ; such a tesselated pavement without 
cement ; here a bit of black stone, and there a bit of white ; 
patriots and courtiers, king's friends and republicans ; w^higs 
and tories ; treacherous friends and open enemies : that it was 
indeed a very curious show ; but utterly unsafe to touch, and 
unsure to stand on. The colleagues whom he had assorted at 
the same boards, stared at each other, and were obliged to ask, 
*' Sir, your name? — Sir, you have the advantage of me — Mr. 
Such-a-one — I beg a thousand pardons — " I venture to say, it 
did so happen, that persons had a single office divided between 
them, who had never spoke to each other in their lives ; until 
they found themselves, they knew not how, pigging together, 
heads and points, in the same truckle-bed. 

Sir, in consequence of this arrangement, having put so much 
the larger part of his enemies and opposers into power, the 
confusion was such, that his own principles could not possibly 
have any effect or influence in the conduct of affairs. If ever 
he fell into a fit of the gout, or if any other cause withdrew 
him from pubhc cares, principles directly the contrary w^ere 
sure to predominate. When he had executed his plan, he had 
not an inch of ground to stand upon. When he had accom- 
plished his scheme of administration, he was no longer a 
minister. 

W^hen his face was hid but for a moment, his whole system 
was on a wide sea, without chart or compass. The gentle- 
men, his particular friends, w^ho, with the names of various 
departments of ministry, were admitted, to seem, as if they 
acted a part under him., with a modesty that becomes all men, 
and with a confidence in him, which was justified even in its 
extravagance by his superior abilities, had never, in any in- 
stance, presumed upon any opinion of their own. Deprived 
of his guiding influence, thev were whirled about, the sport 

8 



86 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 1 

of every gust, and easily driven into any port ; and as thoge 
who joined vi^ith them in manning the vessel v^^ere the most di- 
rectly opposite to his opinions, measures, and character, and 
far the most artful and most pov^^erful of the set, they easily 
prevailed, so as to seize upon the vacant, unoccupied, and 
derelict minds of his friends; and instantly they turned the 
vessel wholly out of the course of his policy. As if it were 
to insult as well as to betray him, even long before the close 
of the first session of his administration, when everything was 
pubhcly transacted, and with great parade, in his name, they 
made an act, declaring it highly just and expedient to raise a 
revenue in America. For even then, Sir, even before the 
splendid orb was entirely set, and while the western horizon 
was in a blaze with his descending glory, on the opposite quar- 
ter of the heavens arose another luminary, and, for his hour, 
became lord of the ascendant. 

This light too is passed and set for ever. You understand, 
to be sure, that I speak of Charles Townshend, officially the 
reproducer of this fatal scheme; whom I cannot even now 
remember without some degree of sensibility. In truth. Sir, 
he was the delight and ornament of this house, and the charm 
of every private society which he honored with his presence. 
Perhaps there never arose in this country, nor in any country,! 
a man of a more pointed and finished wit: and (where hisi 
passions were not concerned) of a more refined, exquisite, and 
penetrating judgment. If he had not so great a stock, as some 
have had who flourished formerly, of knowledge long trea- 
sured up, he knew better by far, than any man I ever was ac- 
quainted with, how to bring together, within a short time, all 
that was necessary to establish, to illustrate, and to decorate 
that side of the question he supported. He stated his matter 
skilfully and powerfully. He particularly excelled in a most 
luminous explanation, and display of his subject. His style 
of argument was neither trite and vulgar, nor subtle and ab- 
struse. He hit the house just between wind and water. And 
not being troubled with too anxious a zeal for any matter inl 
question, he was never more tedious, or more earnest, than' 
the preconceived opinions and present temper of his hearers 
required; to whom he was always in perfect unison. He con-, 
formed exactly to the temper of the house ; and he seemed to 
guide, because he was always sure to follow it. 

I beg pardon. Sir, if, when I speak of this and of other 
great men, I appear to digress in saying something of their 
characters. In this eventful history of the revolutions of 
America, the characters of such men are of much importance. 
Great men are the guide-posts and land-marks in the state. 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 87 

The credit of such men at court, or in the nation, is the sole 
cause of all the public measures. It would be an invidious 
thing (most foreign, I trust, to what you think my disposition) 
to remark the errors into which the authority of great names 
has brought the nation, without doing justice at the same time 
to the great qualities, whence that authority arose. The sub- 
ject is instructive to those who wish to form themselves on 
whatever of excellence has gone before them. There are 
many young members in the house (such of late has been the 
rapid succession of pubHc men) who never saw that prodigy, 
Charles Townshend ; nor of course know what a ferment he 
was able to excite in everything by the violent ebullition of 
his mixed virtues and failings. For failings he had, undoubt- 
edly — many of us remember them; we are this day consider- 
ing the effect of them. But he had no faihngs which were 
not owing to a noble cause ; to an ardent, generous, perhaps 
an immoderate passion for fame ; a passion which is the in- 
stinct of all great souls. He worshipped that goddess where- 
soever she appeared ; but he paid his particular devotions to 
her in her favorite habitation, in her chosen temple, the house 
of commons. Besides the characters of the individuals that 
compose our body, it is impossible, Mr. Speaker, not to ob- 
serve, that this house has a collective character of its own. 
That character too, however imperfect, is not unamiable. 
Like all great public collections of men, you possess a marked 
love of virtue, and an abhorrence of vice. But among vices, 
there is none, which the house abhors in the same degree with 
obstinacy. Obstinacy, Sir, is certainly a great vice ; and in 
the changeful state of political affairs, it is frequently the cause 
of great mischief. It happens, however, very unfortunately, 
that almost the whole line of the great and masculine virtues, 
constancy, gravity, magnanimity, fortitude, fidelity, and firm- 
ness, are closely allied to this disagreeable quality, of which 
you have so just an abhorrence; and in their excess, all these 
virtues very easily fall into it. He, who paid such a punc- 
tihous attention to all your feehngs, certainly took care not to 
shock them by that vice which is the most disgustful to you. 

That fear of displeasing those who ought most to be pleased, 
betrayed him sometimes into the other extreme. He had voted, 
and in the year 1765, had been an advocate for the stamp act. 
Things and the disposition of men's minds were changed. In 
short, the stamp act began to be no favorite in this house. He 
therefore attended at the private meeting, in which the resolu- 
tions moved by a right honorable gentleman were settled; 
resolutions leading to the repeal. The next day he voted for 
that repeal ; and he would have spoken for it too, if an illness. 



88 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

(not as was then given out, a political) but to my knowledge, a 
very real illness, had not prevented it. 

The very next session, as the fashion of this world passeth 
away, the repeal began to be in as bad an odor in this house 
as the stamp act had been in the session before. To conform 
to the temper which began to prevail, and to prevail mostly 
. amongst those most in power, he declared, very early in the 
winter, that a revenue must be had out of America. Instantly 
he was tied down to his engagements by some, who had no 
objection to such experiments, when made at the cost of persons 
for whom they had no particular regard. The whole body of 
courtiers drove him onward. They always talked as if the 
king stood in a sort of humiliated state, until something of the 
kind should be done. 

Here this extraordinary man, then chancellor of the exche- 
quer, found himself in great straits. To please universally was 
the object of his life ; but to tax and to please, no more than to 
love and to be wise, is not given to men. However he attempt- 
ed it. To render the tax palatable to the partisans of American 
revenue, he made a preamble stating the necessity of such a 
revenue. To close with the American distinction, this revenue 
was external or port-duty ; but again, to soften it to the other 
party, it was a duty of supply. To gratify the colonists, it was 
laid on British manufactures ; to satisfy the merchants of Bri- 
tain, the duty was trivial, and (except that on tea, which 
touched only the devoted East India company) on none of the 
grand objects of commerce. To counterwork the American 
contraband, the duty on tea was reduced from a shilling to 
three-pence. But to secure the favor of those who would tax 
America, the scene of collection was changed, and, with the 
rest, it was levied in the colonies. What need I say more? 
This finespun scheme had the usual fate of all exquisite pohcy. 
But the original plan of the duties, and the mode of executing 
that plan, both arose singly and solely from a love of our 
applause. He was truly the child of the house. He never 
thought, did, or said anything, but with a view to you. He 
every day adapted himself to your disposition; and adjusted 
himself before it as at a looking-glass. 

He had observed (indeed it could not escape him) that seve- 
ral persons, infinitely his inferiors in all respects, had formerly 
rendered themselves considerable in this house by one method 
alone. They were a race of men (I hope in God the species is 
extinct), who, when they rose in their place, no man living 
could divine, from any known adherence to parties, to opinions, 
or to principles ; from any order or system in their politics ; or 
from any sequel or connexion in their ideas, what part they 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 89 

were going to take in any debate. It is astonishing how much 
this uncertainty, especially at critical times, called the attention 
of all parties on such men. All eyes were Jfixed on them, all 
ears open to hear them ; each party gaped, and looked alter- 
nately for their vote, almost to the end of their speeches. 
While the house hung in this uncertainty, now the hear-hims 
rose from this side — now they rebellowed from the other ; and 
that party to whom they fell at length from their tremulous and 
dancing balance, always received them in a tempest of applause. 
The fortune of such men was a temptation too great to be 
resisted by one, to whom, a single whifF of incense withheld 
gave much greater pain, than he received delight, in the clouds 
of it, which daily rose about him from the prodigal superstition 
of innumerable admirers. He was a candidate for contradic- 
tory honors ; and his great aim was to make those agree in 
admiration of him who never agreed in anything else. 

Hence arose this unfortunate act, the subject of this day's 
debate ; from a disposition which, after making an American 
revenue to please one, repealed it to please others, and again 
revived it in hopes of pleasing a third, and of catching some- 
thing in the ideas of all. 

This revenue act of 1767, formed the fourth period of Ameri- 
can policy. How we have fared since then — what woful 
variety of schemes have been adopted; what enforcing, and 
what repealing ; what bullying, and what submitting ; what 
doing, and undoing ; what straining, and what relaxing ; what 
assembhes dissolved for not obeying, and called again without 
obedience; what troops sent out to quell resistance, and on 
meeting that resistance, recalled ; what shiftings, and changes, 
and jumblings of all kinds of men at home, which left no possi- 
bility of order, consistency, vigor, or even so much as a decent 
unity of color in any one pubhc measure ! — It is a tedious, irk- 
some task. My duty may call me to open it out some other 
time ; on a former occasion I tried your temper on a part of it; 
for the present I shall forbear. 

After all these changes and agitations, your immediate situa- 
tion upon the question on your paper is at length brought to 
this. You have an act of parhament, stating, that, *'it is 
expedient to raise a revenue in America." By a partial repeal 
you annihilated the greatest part of that revenue, which this 
preamble declares to be so expedient. You have substituted no 
other in the place of it. A secretary of state has disclaimed, 
in the king's name, all thoughts of such a substitution in future. 
The principle of this disclaimer goes to what has been left, as 
well as what has been repealed. The tax which lingers after 
its companions, (under a preamble declaring an American 

M 



90 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

revenue expedient, and for the sole purpose of supporting the 
theory of that preamble) militates with the assurance authenti- 
cally conveyed to the colonies ; and is an exhaustless source of 
jealousy and animosity. On this state, which I take to be a 
fair one; not being able to discern any grounds of honor, 
advantage, peace, or power, for adhering either to the act or 
to the preamble, I shall vote for the question which leads to the 
repeal of both. 

If you do not fall in with this motion, then secure something 
to fight for, consistent in theory and valuable in practice. If 
you must employ your strength, employ it to uphold you in 
some honorable right, or some profitable wrong. If you are 
apprehensive that the concession recommended to you, though 
proper, should be a means of drawing on you further but 
unreasonable claims, — why then employ your force in support- 
ing that reasonable concession against those unreasonable 
demands. You will employ it with more grace ; with better 
effect; and with great probable concurrence of all the quiet 
and rational people in the provinces ; who are now united with, 
and hurried away by, the violent ; having indeed different dis- 
positions, but a common interest. If you apprehend that on a 
concession you shall be pushed by metaphysical process to the 
extreme lines, and argued out of your whole authority, my 
advice is this ; when you have recovered your old, your strong, 
your tenable position, then face about — stop short — do nothing 
more — reason not at all — oppose the ancient policy and prac- 
tice of the empire, as a rampart against the speculations of 
innovators on both sides of the question ; and you will stand on 
great, manly, and sure ground. On this solid basis fix your 
machines, and they will draw worlds towards you. 

Your ministers, in their own and his majesty's name, have 
already adopted the American distinction of internal and external 
duties. It is a distinction, whatever merit it may have, that was 
originally moved by the Americans themselves; and I think 
they will acquiesce in it, if they are not pushed with too much 
logic, and too little sense, in all the consequences. That is, if 
external taxation be understood, as they and you understand it, 
when you please, to be not a distinction of geography, but of 
policy ; that is, a power for regulating trade, and not for sup- 
porting estabhshments. The distinction, which is as nothing 
with regard to right, is of most weighty consideration in practice. 
Recover your old ground, and your old tranquillity — try it — I 
am persuaded the Americans will compromise with you. When 
confidence is once restored, the odious and suspicious summum 
jus will perish, of course. The spirit of practicability, of 
moderation, and mutual convenience, will never call in geomet- 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION 91 

rical exactness as the arbitrator of an amicable settlement. 
Consult and follow your experience. Let not the long story 
with which I have exercised your patience, prove fruitless to 
your interests. 

For my part, I should choose (if I could have my wish) that 
the proposition of the honorable gentleman for the repeal, could 
go to America without the attendance of the penal bills. Alone 
I could almost answer for its success. I cannot be certain of 
its reception in the bad company it may keep. In such hetero- 
geneous assortments, the most innocent person will lose the 
effect of his innocency. Though you should send out this angel 
of peace, yet you are sending out a destroying angel too ; and 
what would be the effect of the conflict of these two adverse 
spirits, or which would predominate in the end, is what I dare 
not say: whether the lenient measures would cause American 
passion to subside, or the severe would increase its fury — All 
this is in the hand of Providence ; yet now, even now, I should 
confide, in the prevailing virtue, and efficacious operation of 
lenity, though working in darkness and in chaos, in the midst 
of all this unnatural and turbid combination. I should hope it 
might produce order and beauty in the end. 

Let us. Sir, embrace some system or other, before we end f 
this session. Do you mean to tax America, and to draw a \ 
productive revenue from thence? If you do, speak out: name, I 
fix, ascertain this revenue ; settle its quantity ; define its objects ; \ 
provide for its collection ; and then fight when you have some- 
thing to fight for. If you murder — rob ; if you kill, take posses- 
sion: and do not appear in the character of madmen, as well as 
assassins, violent, vindictive, bloody, and tyrannical, without 
an object. But may better counsels guide you ! 

Again, and again, revert to your old principles — seek peace 
and ensue it — leave America, if she has taxable matter in her, 
to tax herself. I am not here going into the distinctions of rights, 
nor attempting to mark their boundaries. I do not enter into 
these metaphysical distinctions ; I hate the very sound of them. 
Leave the Americans as they anciently stood, and these distinc- 
tions, born of our unhappy contest, will die along with it. 
They and we, and their and our ancestors, have been happy 
under that system. Let the memory of all actions in contra- 
diction to that good old mode, on both sides, be extinguished 
for ever. Be content to bind America by laws of trade ; you 
have always done it. Let this be your reason for binding their 
trade. Do not burthen them by taxes ; you were not used to 
do so from the beginning. Let this be your reason for not 
taxing. These are the arguments of states and kingdoms. 
Leave the rest to the schools ;' for there only they may be dis- 



92 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

cussed with safety. But if, intemperately, unwisely, fatally, 
you sophisticate and poison the very source of government, by 
urging subtle deductions, and consequences odious to those you 
govern, from the unlimited and illimitable nature of supreme 
sovereignty, you will teach them by these means to call that 
sovereignty itself in question. When you drive him hard, the 
boar will surely turn upon the hunters. If that sovereignty 
and their freedom cannot be reconciled, which will they take ? 
They will cast your sovereignty in your face. Nobody will 
be argued into slavery. Sir, let the gentlemen on the other 
side call forth all their ability; let the best of them get up, and 
tell me, what one character of liberty the Americans have, and 
what one brand of slavery they are free from, if they are 
bound, in their property and industry, by all the restraints you 
can imagine on commerce, and at the same time are made 
packhorses of every tax you choose to impose, without the least 
share in granting them. When they bear the burthens of 
unlimited monopoly, will you bring them to bear the burthens 
of unlimited revenue too ? The EngUshman in America will 
feel that this is slavery — that it is legal slavery, will be no 
compensation, either to his feelings or his understanding. 

A noble lord, who spoke some time ago, is full of the fire of 
ingenuous youth; and when he has modelled the ideas of a 
lively imagination by further experience, he will be an ornament 
to his country in either house. He has said, that the Americans 
are our children, and how can they revolt against their parent?" 
He says, that if they are not free in their present state, England 
is not free ; because Manchester, and other considerable places, , 
are not represented. So then, because some towns in England 
are not represented, America is to have no representative at all. 
They are " our children ;" but when children ask for bread, 
we are not to give a stone. Is it because the natural resistance 
of things, and the various mutations of time, hinder our 
government, or any scheme of government, from being any 
more than a sort of approximation to the right, is it therefore 
that the colonies are to recede from it infinitely 1 When this 
child of ours wishes to assimilate to its parent, and to reflect 
with a true filial resemblance the beauteous countenance of 
British liberty ; are we to turn to them the shameful parts of 
our constitution ? are we to give them our weakness for their 
strength ? our opprobrium for their glory ; and the slough of 
slavery, which we are not able to work off, to serve them for 
their freedom ? 

If this be the case, ask yourselves this question. Will they be 
content in such a state of slavery ? if not, look to the conse- 
quences. Reflect how you are to govern a people, who think 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 93 

they ought to be free, and think they are not. Your scheme 
yields no revenue ; it yields nothing but discontent, disorder, 
disobedience ; and such is the state of America, that after 
wading up to your eyes in blood, you could only end just where 
you begun ; that is, to tax where no revenue is to be found, to 
— my voice fails me; my inclination indeed carries me no 
further — all is confusion beyond it. 

Well, Sir, I have recovered a little, and before I sit down I 
must say something to another point with which gentlemen 
urge us. What is to become of the declaratory act asserting 
the entireness of British legislative authority, if we abandon 
the practice of taxation ? 

For my part, I look upon the rights stated in that act, exactly 
in the manner in which I viewed them on its very first proposi- 
tion, and which I have often taken the hberty, with great humility, 
to lay before you. I look, I say, on the imperial rights of Great 
Britain, and the privileges which the colonists ought to enjoy 
under these rights, to be just the most reconcilable things in the 
world. The parliament of Great Britain sits at the head of her 
extensive empire in two capacities : one as the local legislature 
of this island, providing for all things at home, immediately, 
and by no other instrument than the executive power. — The 
other, and I think her nobler capacity, is what I call her impe- 
rial character; in which, as from the throne of heaven, she 
superintends all the several inferior legislatures, and guides and 
controls them all without annihilating any. As all these 
provincial legislatures are only co-ordinate to each other, they 
ought all to be subordinate to her ; else they can neither preserve 
mutual peace, nor hope for mutual justice, nor effectually afford 
mutual assistance. It is necessary to coerce the' negligent, to 
restrain the violent, and to aid the weak and deficient, by the 
overruling plenitude of her power. She is never to intrude 
into the place of the others, whilst they are equal to the com- 
mon ends of their institution. But in order to enable parliament 
to answer all these ends of provident and beneficent superin- 
tendence, her powers must be boundless. The gentlemen who 
think the powers of parliament limited, may please themselves 
to talk of requisitions. But suppose the requisitions are not 
obeyed 1 What ! Shall there be no reserved power in the empire, 
to supply a deficiency which may weaken, divide, and dissipate 
the whole ? We are engaged in war — the secretary of state 
* calls upon the colonies to contribute — some would do it, I think 
most would cheerfully furnish whatever is demanded — one or 
two, suppose, hang back, and, easing themselves, let the stress 
of the draft lie on the others — surely it is proper, that some 
authority might legally say — " Tax 3^ourselves for the common 



94 MR. EiniKE'S SPEECH 

supply, or parliament will do it for you." This backwardness 
was, as I am told, actually the case of Pennsylvania for some 
short time towards the beginning of the last war, owing to 
some internal dissensions in the colony. But, whether the fact 
were so, or otherwise, the case is equally to be provided for by 
a competent sovereign power. But then this ought to be no 
ordinary power ; nor ever used in the first instance. This is 
what I meant, when I have said at various times, that I consider 
the power of taxing in parliament as an instrument of empire, 
and not as a means of supply. 

Such, Sir, is my idea of the constitution of the British em- 
pire, as distinguished from the constitution of Britain; and on 
these grounds I think subordination and liberty may be suffi- 
ciently reconciled through the whole ; whether to serve a re- 
fining speculatist, or a factious demagogue, I know not ; but 
enough surely for the ease and happiness of man. 

Sir, whilst we held this happy course, we drew more from 
the colonies than all the impotent violence of despotism ever 
could extort from them. We did this abundantly in the last 
war. It has never been once denied — and what reason have 
we to imagine that the colonies would not have proceeded 
in supplying government as liberally, if you had not stepped 
in and hindered them from contributing, by interrupting the 
channel in which their liberality flowed with so strong a 
course; by attempting to take, instead of being satisfied to 
receive ? Sir WilKam Temple says, that Holland has loaded 
itself with ten times the impositions which it revolted from 
Spain, rather than submit to. He says true. Tyranny is a 
poor provider. It knows neither how to accumulate, nor how 
to extract. 

I charge therefore to this new and unfortunate system the 
loss not only of peace, of union, and of commerce, but even 
of revenue, which its friends are contending for. — It is morally 
certain, that we have lost at least a million of free grants since 
the peace. I think we have lost a great deal more; and that 
those who look for a revenue from the provinces, never could 
have pursued, even in that fight, a course more directly re- 
pugnant to their purposes. 

Now, Sir, I trust I have shown, first on that narrow ground 
which the honorable gentleman measured, that you are like 
to lose nothing by complying with the motion, except what 
you have lost already. I have shown afterwards, that in time 
of peace you flourished in commerce, and when war required 
it, had sufficient aid from the colonies, while you pursued your 
ancient poUcy ; that you threw everything into confusion when 
you made the stamp-act ; and that you restored everything to 



ON AMERICAN TAXATION. 95 

peace and order -when you repealed it. I have shown that 
the revival of the system of taxation has produced the very 
worst effects ; and that the partial repeal has produced, not 
partial good, but universal evil. Let these considerations, 
founded on facts, not one of which can be denied, bring us 
back to our reason by the road of our experience. 

I cannot, as I have said, answer for mixed measures : but 
surely this mixture of lenity would give the whole a better 
chance of success. When you once regain confidence, the 
way will be clear before you. Then you may enforce the 
act of navigation when it ought to be enforced. You will 
yourselves open it where it ought still further to be opened. 
Proceed in what you do, whatever you do, from policy, and 
not from rancor. Let us act like men, let us act like states- 
men. Let us hold some sort of consistent conduct. It is 
agreed that a revenue is not to be had in America* If we lose 
the profit, let us get rid of the odium. 

' On this business of America, I confess I am serious, even 
to sadness. I have had but one opinion concerning it since I 
sat, and before I sat in parliament. The noble lord will, as 
usual, probably, attribute the part taken by me and my friends 
in this business, to a desire of getting his places. Let him 
enjoy this happy and original idea. If I deprived him of it, 
I should take away most of his wit, and all his argument. 
But I had rather bear the brunt of all his wit, and indeed 
blows much heavier, than stand answ^erable to God for em- 
bracing a system that tends to the destruction of some of the 
very best and fairest of his works. But I know the map of 
England, as well as the noble lord, or as any other person ; 
and I know that the way I take is not the road to preferment. 
My excellent and honorable friend under me on the floor, has 
trod that road with great toil for upwards of twenty years 
together. He is not yet arrived at the noble lord's destina- 
tion. However, the tracks of my worthy friend are those 
I have ever wished to follow ; because I know they lead to 
honor. Long may we tread the same road together ; who- 
ever may accompany us, or whoever may laugh^ at us on 
our journey! I honestly and solemnly declare, I nave in all 
seasons adhered to the system of 1766, for no other reason, 
than that I think it laid deep in your truest interests — and 
that, by Kmiting the exercise, it fixes on the firmest founda- 
tions, a real, consistent, well-grounded authority in parliament. 
Until you come back to that system, there will be no peace for 
England. 



MR. BURKE'S SPEECH, 



THE ELECTORS OF BRISTOL. 



Mr. Mayor, and Gentlemen, 

I AM extremely pleased at the appearance of this large and : 
respectable meeting. The steps I may be obliged to take will 
want the sanction of a considerable authority ; and in explaining 
anything which may appear doubtful in my pubhc conduct, I 
must naturally desire a very full audience. 

I have been backward to begin my canvass. — The dissolu- 
tion of the parliament was uncertain ; and it did not become 
me, by an unseasonable importunity, to appear diffident of the 
fact of my six years' endeavors to please you. I had served 
the city of Bristol honorably ; and the city of Bristol had no 
reason to think, that the means of honorable service to the • 
public, were become indifferent to me. 

I found, on my arrival here, that three gentlemen had been 
long in eager pursuit of an object which but two of us can 
obtain. I found, that they had all met with encouragement. A 
contested election in such a city as this, is no light thing. I 
paused on the brink of the precipice. These three gentlemen, 
by various merits, and on various titles, I made no doubt, were 
worthy of your favor. I shall never attempt to raise myself 
by depreciating the merits of my competitors. In the com- 
plexity and confusion of these cross pursuits, I wished to take 
the authentic public sense of my friends upon a business of so 
much delicacy. I wished to take your opinion along with me ; 
that if I should give up the contest at the very beginning, my 
surrender of my post may not seem the effect of inconstancy, 
or timidity, or anger, or disgust, or indolence, or any other 
temper unbecoming a man who has engaged in the public ser- 
vice. If, on the contrary, I should undertake the election, and 
fail of success, I was full as anxious that it should be manifest 
to the whole world, that the peace of the city had not been 
broken by my rashness, presumption, or fond conceit of my 
own merit. 

I am not come, by a false and counterfeit show of deference 
to your judgment, to seduce it in my favor. I ask it seriously 
and unaffectedly. If you wish that I should retire, I shall not 



MR. BURKE'S SPEECH TO THE ELECTORS OF BRISTOL. 97 

consider that advice as a censure upon my conduct, or an 
alteration in your sentiments ; but as a rational submission to 
the circumstances of affairs. If, on the contrary you should 
think it proper for me to proceed on my canvass, if you will 
risk the trouble on your part, I will risk it on mine. My pre- 
tensions are such as you cannot be ashamed of, whether they 
succeed or fail. 

If you call upon me, I shall sohcit the favor of the city upon 
manly ground.' I come before you with the plain confidenco 
of an honest servant in the equity of a candid and discerning 
master. I come to claim your approbation, not to amuse you 
with vain apologies, or with professions still more vain and 
senseless. I have lived too long to be served by apologies, or to 
stand in need of them. The part I have acted has been in open 
day ; and to hold out to a conduct, which stands in that clear 
and steady light for all its good and all its evil, to hold out to- 
that conduct the paltry winking tapers of excuses and prom- 
ises — I never will do it. They may obscure it with their 
smoke ; but they never can illumine sunshine by such a flame 
as theirs. 

I am sensible that no endeavors have been left untried to 
injure me in your opinion. But the use of character is to be a 
shield against calumny. I could wish, undoubtedly (if idle 
wishes were not the most idle of all things) to make every part 
of my conduct agreeable to every one of my constituents. But 
in so great a city, and so greatly divided as this, it is weak to 
expect it. 

In such a discordancy of sentiments, it is better to look to 
the nature of things than to the humors of men. The very 
attempt towards pleasing everybody, discovers a temper 
always flashy, and often false and insincere. Therefore, as I 
have proceeded straight onward in my conduct, so i will pro- 
ceed in my account of those parts of it which have been most 
excepted to. But I must first beg leave just to hint to you, that 
we may suffer very great detriment by being open to every 
talker. It is not to be imagined how much of service is lost 
from spirits full of activity, and full of energy, who are press- 
ing, who are rushing forward, to great and capital objects, 
when you oblige them to be continually looking back. Whilst 
ihey are defending one service, they defraud you of a hundred. 
Applaud us when we run ; console us when we fall ; cheer us 
when we recover; but let us pass on— for God's sake let 
us pass on. 

Do you think, gentlemen, that every public act in the six years 
since I stood in this place before you — that all the arduous 
things which have been done in this eventful period, which has 

N 9 



98 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

crowded into a few years' space the revolutions of an age, can 
be opened to you on their fair grounds in half an hour's con- 
versation? 

But it is no reason, because there is a bad mode of inquiry, 
that there should be no examination at all. Most certainly it 
is our duty to examine ; it is our interest too. — But it must be 
with discretion ; with an attention to all the circumstances, and 
to all the motives; like sound judges, and not like cavilling 
pettifoggers and quibbhng pleaders, prying into flaws and 
hunting for exceptions. Look, gentlemen, to the whole tenor of 
your member's conduct. Try whether his ambition or his 
avarice has justled him out of the straight line of duty ; or 
whether that grand foe of the offices of active life, that master- 
vice in men of business, a degenerate and inglorious sloth, has 
made him flag, and languish in his course. This is the object 
of our inquiry. If our member's conduct can bear this touch, 
mark it for sterling. He may have fallen into errors ; he must 
have faults ; but our error is greater, and our fault is radically . 
ruinous to ourselves, if we do not bear, if we do not even 
applaud, the whole compound and mixed mass of such a char- 
acter. Not to act thus is folly ; I had almost said it is impiety. 
He censures God, who quarrels with the imperfections of man. 

Gentlemen, we must not be peevish with those who serve 
the people. For none will serve us whilst there is a court to 
serve, but those who are of a nice and jealous honor. They 
who think everything, in comparison of that honor, to be dust 
and ashes, will not bear to have it soiled and impaired by those " 
for whose sake they make a thousand sacrifices to preserve it 
immaculate and whole. We shall either drive such men from I 
the public stage, or we shall send them to the court for pro- 1 
tection: where, if they must sacrifice their reputation, they I 
will at least secure their interest. Depend upon it, that the 
lovers of freedom will be free. ' None will violate their con- 
science to please us, in order afterwards to discharge that 
conscience, which they have violated, by doing us faithful and 
affectionate service. If we degrade and deprave their minds 
by servility, it will be absurd to expect, that they who are 
creeping and abject towards us, will ever be bold and incor- 
ruptible asserters of our freedom, against the most seducing 
and the most formidable of all powers. No. Human nature 
is not so formed : nor shall we improve the faculties or better 
the morals of public men, by our possession of the niost infal- 
lible receipt in the world for making cheats and hypocrites. 

Let me say with plainness, I who am no longer in a public 
character, that if by a fair, by an indulgent, by a gentlemanly 
behavior to our representatives, we do not give confidence 



m 



TO THE ELECTORS OF BRISTOL. 99 

to their minds, and a liberal scope to their understandings ; if 
we do not permit our members to act upon a very enlarged 
view of things, we shall at length infallibly degrade our na- 
tional representation into a confused and scuffling bustle of 
local agency. When the popular member is narrowed in 
his ideas, and rendered timid in his proceedings, the service 
of the crown will be the sole nursery of statesmen. Among 
the frohcs of the court, it may at length take that of attending 
to its business. Then the monopoly of mental power will be 
added to the power of all other kinds it possesses. On the 
side of the people there will be nothing but impotence : for 
ignorance is impotence; narrowness of mind is impotence; 
timidity is itself impotence, and makes all other qualities that 
go along with it, impotent and useless. 

At present, it is the plan of the court to make its servants 
insignificant. If the people should fall into the same humor, 
and should choose their servants on the same principles of 
mere obsequiousness, and flexibility, and total vacancy or in- 
diiference of opinion in all public matters, then no part of the 
state will be sound ; and it will be in vain to think of saving 
of it. 

I thought it very expedient at this time to give you this can- 
did counsel ; and with this counsel I would willingly close, if 
the matters which at various times have been objected to me 
in this city concerned only myself, and my own election. 
These charges, I think, are four in number — my neglect of a 
due attention to my constituents — the not paying more fre- 
quent visits here — my conduct on the affairs of the first Irish 
trade acts — my opinion and mode of proceeding on lord Beau- 
champ's debtor's bills — and my votes on the late affairs of the 
Roman Cathohcs. All of these (except perhaps the first) re- 
late to matters of very considerable public concern ; and it is 
not lest you should censure me improperly, but lest you should 
form improper opinions on matters of some moment to you, 
that I trouble you at all upon the subject. My conduct is of 
small importance. 

With regard to the first charge, my friends have spoken to 
me of it in the style of amicable expostulation ; not- so much 
blaming the thing, as lamenting the effects. Others, less par- 
tial to me, were less kind in assigning the motives. I admit, 
there is a decorum and propriety in a member of parhament's 
paying a respectful court to his constituents. If I were con- 
scious to myself that pleasure or dissipation, or low unworthy 
occupations, had detained me from personal attendance on 
you, I would readily admit my fault, and quietly submit to the 
penalty. But, gentlemen, I live a hundred miles' distance from 



100 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

Bristol; and at the end of a session I come to my own house, 
fatigued in body and in mind, to a little repose, and to a very 
little attention to my family and my private concerns. A visit 
to Bristol is always a sort of canvass ; else it will do more 
harm than good. To pass from the toils of a session to the 
toils of a canvass, is the furthest thing in the world from re- 
pose. I could hardly serve you as I have done, and court you 
too. Most of you have heard, that I do not very remarkably 
spare myself in public business ; and in the private business of 
my constituents I have done very near as much as those who 
have nothing else to do. My canvass of you was not on the 
change, nor in the county meetings, nor in the clubs of this 
city. It was in the house of commons ; it was at the custom- 
house ; it was at the council ; it was at the treasury ; it was 
at the admiralty. I canvassed you through your affairs, and 
not your persons. I was not only your representative as a 
body; I was the agent, the solicitor of individuals. I ran 
about wherever your affairs could call me ; and in acting for 
you, I often appeared rather as a ship-broker, than as a mem- 
ber of parliament. There was nothing too laborious, or too 
low, for me to undertake. The meanness of the business was 
raised by the dignity of the object. If some lesser matters 
have shpped through my fingers, it was because I filled my 
hands too full; and, in my eagerness to serve you, took in 
more than my hands could grasp. Several gentlemen stand 
round me who are my willing witnesses ; and there are others 
who, if they were here, would be still better; because they 
would be unwilling witnesses to the same truth. It was in the 
middle of a summer residence in London, and in the middle 
of a negotiation at the admiralty for your trade, that I was 
called to Bristol ; and this late visit, at this late day, has heen 
possibly in prejudice to your affairs. 

Since I have touched upon this matter, let me say, gentle- 
men, that if I had a disposition, or a right to complain, I have 
some cause of complaint on my side. With a petition of this 
city in my hand, passed through the corporation without a 
dissenting voice, a petition in unison with almost the whole 
voice of the kingdom (with whose formal thanks I was cov- 
ered over) while I labored on no less than five bills for a pub- 
He reform, and fought against the opposition of great abilities, 
and of the greatest power, every clause and every word of 
the largest of those bills, almost to the very last day of a very 
long session; all this time a canvass in Bristol was as calmly 
carried on as if I were dead. I was considered as a man 
wholly out of the question. Whilst I watched, and fasted, and 
sweated in the house of commons — by the most easy and or- 



I 



TO THE ELECTORS OF BRISTOL. 101 

dinary arts of election, by dinners and visits, by " How do 
you dos," and *'My worthy friends," I was to be quietly 
moved out of my seat — and promises were made, and engage- 
ments entered into, without any exception or reserve, as if my 
laborious zeal in my duty had been a regular abdication of 
my trust. 

To open my whole heart to you on this subject, I do con- 
fess, however, that there were other times besides the two 
years in which I did visit you, when I was not wholly without 
leisure for repeating that mark of my respect. But I could 
not bring my mind to see you. You remember, that in the 
beginning of this American war (that era of calamity, dis- 
grace, and downfall, an era which no feeling mind will ever 
mention without a tear for England) you were greatly divided ; 
and a very strong body, if not the strongest, opposed itself to 
the madness which every art and every power were employed 
to render popular, in order that the errors of the rulers might 
be lost in the general blindness of the nation. This opposition 
continued until after our great, but most unfortunate victory 
at Long Island. Then all the mound and banks of our con- 
stancy were borne down at once ; and the frenzy of the Ame- 
rican war broke in upon us hke a deluge. This victory, which 
seemed to put an immediate end to all difficulties, perfected us 
in that spirit of domination, which our unparalleled prosperity 
had but too long nurtured. We had been so very powerful, 
and so very prosperous, that even the humblest of us were 
degraded into the vices and follies of kings. We lost all mea- 
sure between means and ends ; and our headlong desires be- 
came our politics and our morals. All men who wished for 
peace, or retained any sentiments of moderation, were over- 
borne or silenced ; and this city was led by every artifice (and 
probably with the more management, because I was one of 
your members) to distinguish itself by its zeal for that fatal 
cause. In this temper of yours and of my mind, I should 
have sooner fled to the extremities of the earth, than have 
shown myself here. I, who saw in every American victory 
(for you have had a long series of these misfortunes) the germ 
and seed of the naval power of France and Spain, which all 
our heat and warmth against America was only hatching into 
life. I should not have been a welcome visitant with the brow 
and the language of such feelings. When, afterwards, the 
other face of your calamity was turned upon you, and showed 
itself in defeat and distress, I shunned you full as much. I 
felt sorely this variety in our wretchedness; and I did not wish 
to have the least appearance of insulting you with that show 
of superiority, which, though it may not be assumed, is gene- 

9# 



102 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

rally suspected in a time of calamity, from those whose pre- 
vious warnings have been despised. I could not bear to show 
you a representative whose face did not reflect that of his 
constituents ; a face that could not joy in your joys, and sor- 
row in your sorrows. But time at length has made us all of 
one opinion; and we have all opened our eyes on the true na- 
ture of the American war, to the true nature of all its suc- 
cesses and all its failures. 

In that public storm too I had my private feehngs. I had 
seen blown down and prostrate on the ground several of those 
houses to whom I was chiefly indebted for the honor this city 
has done me. I confess that whilst the wounds of those I 
loved were yet green, I could not bear to show myself in pride 
and triumph in that place into which their partiality had brought 
me, and to appear at feasts and rejoicings, in the midst of the 
grief and calamity of my warm friends, my zealous supporters, 
my generous benefactors. This is a true, unvarnished, undis- 
guised state of the affair. You will judge of it. 

This is the only one of the charges in which I am personally 
concerned. As to the other matters objected against me, 
which in their turn I shall mention to you, remember once 
more I do not mean to extenuate or excuse. Why should I, 
when the things charged are among those upon which I found 
all my reputation? What would be left to me, if I myself was 
the man, who softened, and blended, and diluted, and weakened, 
all the distinguishing colors of my life, so as to leave nothing 
distinct and determinate in my whole conduct? 

It has been said, and it is the second charge, that in the 
questions of the Irish trade, I did not consult the interest of my 
constituents, or, to speak out strongly, that I rather acted as a 
native of Ireland, than as an Enghsh member of parliament. 

I certainly have very warm good wishes for the place of my 
birth. But the sphere of my duties is my true country. It 
was, as a man attached to your interests, and zealous for the 
conservation of your power and dignity, that I acted on that 
occasion, and on all occasions. You were involved in the 
American war. A new world of. policy was opened, to which 
it was necessary we should conform, whether we would or 
not ; and my only thought was how to conform to our situation 
in such a manner as to unite to this kingdom, in prosperity and 
in affection, whatever remained of the empire. I was true to 
my old, standing, invariable principle, that all things which 
came fromx Great Britain, should issue as a gift of her bounty 
and beneficence, rather than as claims recovered against a 
struggUng litigant ; or at least, that if your beneficence obtained 
no credit in your concessions, yet that they should appear the 



TO THE "ELECTORS OF BRISTOL. 103 

salutary provisions of your wisdom and foresight ; not as things 
wrung from you with your blood, by the cruel gripe of a rigid 
necessity. The first concessions, by beiug (much against my 
will) mangled and stripped of the parts which were necessary 
to make out their just correspondence and connexion in trade, 
were of no use. The next year a feeble attempt was made to 
bring the thing into better shape. This attempt (countenanced 
by the minister) on the very first appearance of some popular 
uneasiness, was, after a considerable progress through the 
house, thrown out by Mm. 

What was the consequence ? The whole kingdom of Ireland 
was instantly in a flame. Threatened by foreigners, and, as 
they thought, insulted by England, they resolved at once to 
resist the power of France, and to cast off" yours. As for us, 
we were able neither to protect nor to restrain them. Forty 
thousand men were raised and disciplined without commission 
from the crown. Two illegal armies were seen with banners 
displayed at the same time, and in the same country. No 
executive magistrate, no judicature, in Ireland, would acknow- 
ledge the legality of the army which bore the king's commis- 
sion ; and no law, or appearance of law, authorized the army 
commissioned by itself. In this unexam.pled state of things, 
which the least error, the least trespass on the right or left, 
would have hurried down the precipice into an abyss of blood 
and confusion, the people of Ireland demand a freedom of trade 
with arms in their hands. They interdict all commerce be- 
tween the two nations. They deny all new supply in the house 
of commons, ahhough in time of war. They stint the trust of 
the old revenue, given for two years to all the king's predeces- 
sors, to six months. The British parliament, in a former 
session frightened into a hmited concession by the menaces of 
Ireland, frightened out of it by the menaces of England, was 
now frightened back again, and made a universal surrender of 
all that had been thought the peculiar, reserved, uncommuni- 
cable rights of England;— the exclusive commerce of America, 
of Africa, of the West Indies — all the enumerations of the acts 
of navigation — all the manufactures, — iron, glass, even the last 
pledge of jealousy and pride, the interest hid in the secret of 
our hearts, the inveterate prejudice moulded into the constitu- 
tion of our frame, even the secret fleece itself, all went together. 
No reserve ; no exception ; no debate ; no discussion. A 
sudden light broke in upon us all. It broke in, not through well 
contrived and well disposed windows, but through flaws and 
breaches ; through the yawning chasms of our ruin. We were 
taught wisdom by humihation. . No town in England presumed 
to have a prejudice, or dared to mutter a petition. What was 



104 .MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

worse, the whole parliament of England, which retained 
authority for nothing but surrenders, was despoiled of every 
shadow of its superintendence. It was, without any qualifica- 
tion, denied in theory, as it had been trampled upon in practice. 
This scene of shame and disgrace has, in a manner whilst I am 
speaking, ended by the perpetual estabhshment of a military 
power, in the dominions of this crown, without consent of the 
British legislature, contrary to the policy of the constitution, 
contrary to the declaration of right : and by this your liberties 
are swept away along with your supreme authority — and both, 
linked together from the beginning, have, I am afraid, both 
together perished for ever. 

What ! gentlemen, was I not to foresee, or foreseeing was I 
not to endeavor to save you from all these multiplied mischiefs 
and disgraces? Would the httle, silly, canvass prattle of 
obeying instructions, and having no opinions but yours, and 
such idle senseless tales, which amuse the vacant ears of un- 
thinking men, have saved you from " the pelting of that pitiless 
storm," to which the loose improvidence, the cowardly rash- 
ness of those who dare not look danger in the face, so as to 
provide against it in time, and therefore throw themselves 
headlong into the midst of it, have exposed this degraded 
nation, beat down and prostrate on the earth, unsheltered, 
unarmed, unresisting ? Was I an Irishman on that day, that I 
boldly withstood our pride ? or on the day that I hung down 
my head, and wept in shame and silence over the humiliation 
of Great Britain ? I became unpopular in England for the one, 
and in Ireland for the other. What then ? What obligation 
lay on me to be popular ? I was bound to serve both kingdoms. 
To be pleased with my service, was their affair, not mine. 

I was an Irishman in the Irish business, just as much as I 
was an American, when, on the same principles, I wished you 
to concede to America, at a time when she prayed concession 
at our feet. Just as much was I an American, when I wished 
parliament to offer terms in victory, and not to wait the well 
chosen hour of defeat, for making good by weakness, and by 
supplication, a claim of prerogative, pre-eminence, and au- 
thority. 

Instead of requiring it from me, as a point of duty, to kindle 
with your passions, had you all been as cool as I was, you 
would have been saved disgraces and distresses that are unut- 
terable. Do you remember our commission 1 We sent out a 
solemn embassy across the Atlantic ocean, to lay the crown, 
the peerage, the commons of Great Britain, at the feet of the 
American congress. That our disgrace might want no sort of 
brightening and burnishing, observe who they were that com- 



TO THE ELECTORS OF BRISTOL. 105 

posed this famous embassy. My lord Carlisle is among the 
first ranks of our nobility. He is the identical man who but 
two years before had been put forward, at the opening of a 
session in the house of lords, as the mover of a haughty and 
rigorous address against America. He was put in the front of 
the embassy of submission. Mr. Eden was taken from the 
office of lord Suffolk, to whom he was then under secretary of 
state ; from the office of that lord Suffolk, who but a few weeks 
before, in his place in parliament, did not deign to inquire 
where a congress of vagrants was to be found. This lord 
Suffolk sent Mr. Eden to find the vagrants, without knowing 
where his king's generals were to be found, who were joined in 
the same commission of supphcating those whom they were 
sent to subdue. They enter the capital of America only to 
abandon it; and these asserters and representatives of the dig- 
nity of England, at the tail of a flying army, let fly their Par- 
thian shafts of memorials and remonstrances at random behind 
them. Their promises and their offers, their flatteries and their 
menaces, were all despised ; and w^e were saved the disgrace 
of their formal reception, only because the congress scorned to 
receive them; whilst the state house of independent Phila- 
delphia opened her doors to the public entry of the ambassador 
of France. From w^ar and blood we went to submission; and 
from submission plunged back again to war and blood ; to 
desolate and be desolated, without measure, hope, or end. I 
am a royalist : I blush for this degradation of the crown. I am 
a whig ; I blush for the dishonor of parhament. I am a true 
Enghshman : I felt to the quick for the disgrace of England. I 
am a man : I felt for the melancholy reverse of human affairs, 
in the fall of the first power in the world. 

To read what was approaching in Ireland, in the black and 
bloody characters of the American war, was a painful, but it 
was a necessary part of my public duty. For, gentlemen, it is 
not your fond desires or mine that can alter the nature of things; 
by contending against which what have we got, or shall ever 
get, but defeat and shame ? I did not obey your instructions ! 
No. I conformed to the instructions of truth and nature, and 
maintained your interest, against your opinions, with a con- 
stancy that became me. A representative worthy of you, ought 
to be a person of stability. I am to look, indeed, to your opin- 
ions ; but to such opinions as you and I must have five years 
hence. I was not to look to the flash of the day. I knew that 
you chose me, in my place, along with others, to be a pillar of 
the state, and not a weathercock on the top of the edifice, 
exalted for my levity and versatility, and of no use but to indi- 
cate the shiftings of every fashionable gale. Would to God, 

O 



106 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

the value of my sentiments on Ireland and on America had 
been at this day a subject of doubt and discussion ! No matter 
what my sufferings had been, so that this kingdom had kept 
the authority I wished it to maintain, by a grave foresight, and 
by an equitable temperance in the use of its power. 

The next article of charge on my public conduct, and that 
which I find rather the most prevalent of all, is lord Beau- 
champ's bill. I mean his bill of last session, for reforming the 
law-process concerning imprisonment. It is said, to aggravate 
the offence, that I treated the petition of this city with con- 
tempt even in presenting it to the house, and expressed myself 
in terms of marked disrespect. Had this latter part of the 
charge been true, no merits on the side of the question which 
I took, could possibly excuse me. But I am incapable of treating 
this city with disrespect. Very fortunately, at this minute (if 
my bad eyesight does not deceive me) the worthy gentleman 
deputed on this business stands directly before me. To him I 
appeal, whether I did not, though it militated with my oldest 
and my most recent public opinions, deliver the petition with a 
strong and more than usual recommendation to the consideration 
of the house, on account of the character and consequence of 
those who signed it. I believe the worthy gentleman will tell 
you, that the very day I received it, I applied to the solicitor, 
now the attorney general, to give it an immediate consideration ; 
and he most obligingly and instantly consented to employ a 
great deal of his very valuable time to write an explanation of 
the bill. I attended the committee with all possible care and 
diligence, in order that every objection of yours might meet 
with a solution; or produce an alteration. I entreated your 
learned recorder (always ready in business in which you take 
a concern) to attend. But what will you say to those who 
blame me for supporting lord Beauchamp's bill, as a disrespect- 
ful treatment of your petition, when you hear, that out of respect 
to you, I myself was the cause of the loss of that very bill ? 
For the noble lord who brought it in, and who, I must say, has 
much merit for this and some other measures, at my request 
consented to put it off for a week, which the speaker's illness 
lengthened to a fortnight; and then the frkntic tumult about 
popery drove that and every rational business from the house. 
So that if I chose to make a defence of myself, on the little 
principles of a culprit, pleading in his exculpation, I might not 
only secure my acquittal, but make merit with the opposers of 
the bill. But I shall do no such thing. The truth is, that I did 
occasion the loss of the bill, and by a delay caused by my 
respect to you. But such an event was never in my contempla- 
tion. And I am so far from taking credit for the defeat of that 



TO THE ELECTORS OF BRISTOL. 107 

measure, that I cannot sufficiently lament my misfortune, if but 
one man, who ought to be at large, has passed a year in prison 
by my means. I am a debtor to the debtors. I confess judg- 
ment. I owe, what, if ever it be in my power, I shall most 
certainly pay — ample atonement, and usurious amends to liberty 
and humanity for my unhappy lapse. For, gentlemen, lord 
Beauchamp's bill was a law of justice and policy, as far as it 
went. I say as far as it went ; for its fault was its being, in the 
remedial part, miserably defective. 

There are two capital faults in our law with relation to civil 
debts. One is, that every man is presumed solvent. A presump- 
tion, in innumerable cases, directly against truth. Therefore 
the debtor is ordered, on a supposition of ability and fraud, to 
be coerced his liberty until he makes payment. By this means, 
in all cases of civil insolvency, without a pardon from his 
creditor, he is to be imprisoned for life : — and thus a miserable 
mistaken invention of artificial science, operates to change a 
civil into a criminal judgment, and to scourge misfortune or 
indiscretion with a punishment which the law does not inflict 
on the greatest crimes. 

The next fault is, that the inflicting of that punishment is not 
on the opinion of an equal and public judge ; but is referred to 
the arbitrary discretion of a private, nay interested, and irritated, 
individual. He, who formally is, and substantially ought to be, 
the judge, is in reality no more than ministerial, a mere executive 
instrument of a private man, who is at once judge and party. 
Every idea of judicial order is subverted by this procedure. If 
the insolvency be no crime, why is it punished with arbitrary 
imprisonment? If it be a crime, why is it delivered into private 
hands to pardon without discretion, or to punish without mercy 
and without measure 1 

To these faults, gross and cruel faults in our law, the excel- 
lent principle of lord Beauchamp's bill applied some sort of 
remedy. I know that credit must be preserved ; but equity 
must be preserved too; and it is impossible, that anything 
should be necessary to commerce, which is inconsistent with 
justice. The principle of credit was not weakened by that bill. 
God forbid ! The enforcement of that credit was only put into 
the same public judicial hands on which we depend for our 
lives, and all that makes life dear to us. But, indeed, this 
business was taken up too warmly both here and elsewhere. 
The bill was extremely mistaken. It was supposed to enact 
what it never enacted ; and complaints were made of clauses 
in it as novelties, which existed before the noble lord that brought 
in the bill was born. There was a fallacy that ran through the 
whole of the objections. The gentlemen who opposed the bill, 



108 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 'IM 

always argued, as if the option lay between that bill and the 
ancient law. But this is a grand mistake. For, practically, the 
option is between, not that bill and the old law, but between 
that bill and those occasional laws called acts of grace. For 
the operation of the old law is so savage, and so inconvenient 
to society, that for a long time past, once in every parliament, 
and lately twice, the legislature has been obhged to make • a 
general arbitrary jail delivery, and at once to set open, by its 
sovereign authority, all the prisons in England. 

Gentlemen, I never rehshed acts of grace ; nor ever submitted 
to them but from despair of better. They are a dishonorable 
invention, by which, not from humanity, not from policy ; but 
merely because we have not room enough to hold these victims 
of the absurdity of our laws, we turn loose upon the public 
three or four thousand naked wretches, corrupted by the habits, 
debased by the ignominy, of a prison. If the creditor had a 
right to those carcases as a natural security for his property, I 
am sure we have no right to deprive him of that security. But 
if the few pounds of flesh were not necessary to his security, 
we had not a right to detain the unfortunate debtor, without any 
benefit at all to the person who confined him. Take it as you 
will, we commit injustice. Now, lord Beauchamp's bill intended 
to do deliberately, and with great caution and circumspection, 
upon each several case, and with all attention to the just claimant, 
what acts of grace do in a much greater measure, and with 
very little care, caution, or deliberation. 

I suspect that here^too, if we continue to oppose this bill, we 
shall be found in a struggle against the nature of things. For 
as we grow enlightened, the public will not bear, for any length 
of time, to pay for the maintenance of whole armies of prisoners, 
nor, at their own expense, submit to keep jails as a sort of garri- 
sons, merely to fortify the absurd principle of making men judges 
in their own cause. For credit has little or no concern in this 
cruelty. I speak in a commercial assembly. You know that 
credit is given, because capital must be employed ; that men 
calculate the chances of insolvency ; and they either withhold 
the credit, or make the debtor pay the risk in the price. The 
counting-house has no alhance with the jail. Holland under- 
stands trade as well as we, and she has done much more than 
this obnoxious bill intended to do. There was not, when Mr. 
Howard visited Holland, more than one prisoner for debt in 
the great city of Rotterdam. Although lord Beauchamp's act 
(which was previous to this bill, and intended to feel the way 
for it) has already preserved liberty to thousands ; and though 
it is not three years since the last act of grace passed, yet by Mr. 
Howard's last account, thei^e were near three thousand again in 



TO THE ELECTORS OF BRISTOL. 109 

jail. I cannot name this gentleman without remarking, that 
his labors and writings have done much to open the eyes and 
hearts of mankind. He has visited all Europe, — not to survey 
the sumptuousness of palaces, or the statehness of temples ; not 
to make accurate measurements of the remains of ancient gran- 
deur, nor to form a scale of the curiosity of modern art ; not to col- 
lect medals, or collate manuscripts : — but to dive into the depths 
of dungeons ; to plunge into the infection of hospitals ; to survey 
the mansions of sorrow and pain ; to take the gauge and dimen- 
sions of misery, depression, and contempt ; to remember the 
forgotten, to attend to the neglected, to visit the forsaken, and 
to compare and collate the distresses of all men in all countries. 
His plan is original ; and it is as full of genius as it is of humanity. 
It was a voyage of discovery ; a circumnavigation of charity. 
Already the benefit of his labor is felt more or less in every 
country : I hope he will anticipate his final reward, by seeing 
all its effects fully realized in his own. He will receive, not 
by retail but in gross, the reward of those who visit the prisoner; 
and he has so forestalled and monopohzed this branch of charity, 
that there will be, I trust, little room to merit by such acts of 
benevolence hereafter. 

Nothing now remains to trouble you with, but the fourth 
charge against me — the business of the Roman Catholics. It 
is a business closely connected with the rest. They are all on 
one and the same principle. My httle scheme of conduct, such 
as it is, is all arranged. I could do nothing but what I have 
done on this subject, without confounding the whole train of 
my ideas, and disturbing the whole order of my life. Gentle- 
men, I ought to apologize to you, for seeming to think anything 
at all necessary to be said upon this matter. The calumny is 
fitter to be scrawled with the midnight chalk of incendiaries, 
with " No popery," on walls and doors of devoted houses, than 
to be mentioned in any civilized company. I had heard, that 
the spirit of discontent on that subject was very prevalent here. 
With pleasure I find that I have been grossly misinformed. If 
it exists at all in this city, the laws have crushed its exertions, 
and our morals have shamed its appearance in daylight. I 
have pursued this spirit wherever I could trace it ; but it still 
fled from me. It was a ghost which all had heard of, but none 
had seen. None would acknowledge that he thought the pub- 
lic proceeding with regard to our Catholic dissenters to be 
blamable; but several were sorry it had made an ill impression 
upon others, and that my interest was hurt by my share in the 
business. I find wath satisfaction and pride, that not above four 
or five in this city (and I dare say these misled by some gross 
misrepresentation) have signed that symbol of delusion and bond 

10 



110 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

of sedition, that libel on the national religion and English 
character, the Protestant Association. It is therefore, gentle- 
men, not by way of cure but of prevention, and lest the arts of 
wicked men may prevail over the integrity of any one amongst 
us, that I think it necessary to open to you the merits of this 
transaction pretty much at large ; and I beg your patience upon 
it : for, although the reasonings that have been used to depreciate 
the act are of little force, and though the authority of the men 
concerned in this ill design is not very imposing ; yet the auda- 
ciousness of these conspirators against the national honor, and 
the extensive wickedness of their attempts, have raised persons 
of little importance to a degree of evil eminence, and imparted 
a sort of sinister dignity to proceedings that had their origin in 
only the meanest and bhndest malice. 

In explaining to you the proceedings of parliament which 
have been complained of, I will state to you, — first, the thing 
that was done ; — next, the persons who did it ; — and lastly, the 
grounds and reasons upon which the legislature proceeded in 
this deliberate act of public justice and public prudence. 

Gentlemen, the condition of our nature is such, that we buy 
our blessings at a price. The reformation, one of the greatest 
periods of human improvement, was a time of trouble and 
confusion. The vast structure of superstition and tyranny, 
which had been for ages in rearing, and which was combined 
with the interest of the great and of the many; which was 
moulded into the laws, the manners, and civil institutions of 
nations, and blended with the frame and policy of states, could 
not be brought to the ground without a fearful struggle ; nor 
could it fall without a violent concussion of itself and all about 
it. When this great revolution was attempted in a more regu- 
lar mode by government, it was opposed by plots and seditions 
of the people ; when by popular efforts, it was repressed as 
rebellion by the hand of power ; and bloody executions (often 
bloodily returned) marked the whole of its progress through all 
its stages. The affairs of religion, which are no longer heard 
of in the tumult of our present contentions, made a principal 
ingredient in the wars and politics of that time ; the enthu- 
siasm of religion threw a gloom over the politics ; and politi- 
cal interests poisoned and perverted the spirit of religion upon 
all sides. The Protestant religion, in that violent struggle, in- 
fected, as the Popish had been before, by worldly interests and 
worldly passions, became a persecutor in its turn, sometimes 
of the new sects, which carried their own principles further 
than was convenient to the original reformers; and always 
of the body from whom they parted; and this persecuting 



TO THE ELECTORS OF BRISTOL. Ill 

spirit arose, not only from the bitterness of retaliation, but from 
the merciless policy of fear. 

A statute was fabricated in the year 1699, by which the 
saying mass (a church service in the Latin tongue, not exactly 
the same as our liturgy, but very near it, and containing no 
offence whatsoever against the laws, or against good morals) 
was forged into a crime punishable with perpetual imprison- 
ment. The teaching school, a useful and virtuous occupation, 
even the teaching in a private family, was in every Catholic 
subjected to the same unproportioned punishment. Your in- 
dustry, and the bread of your children, was taxed for a pecu- 
niary reward to stimulate avarice to do what nature refused ; 
to inform and prosecute on this law. Every Roman CathoHc 
was, under the same act, to forfeit his estate to his nearest 
Protestant relation, until, through a profession of what he did 
not believe, he redeemed, by his hypocrisy, what the law had 
transferred to the kinsman as the recompense of his profligacy. 
When thus turned out of doors from his paternal estate, he was 
disabled from acquiring any other by any industry, donation, 
or charity ; but was rendered a foreigner in his native land, 
only because he retained the religion, along with the property, 
handed down to him from those who had been the old inhabit- 
ants of that land before him. 

Does any one who hears me approve this scheme of things, 
or think there is common justice, common sense, or common 
honesty in any part of it ? If any does, let him say it ; and 
I am ready to discuss the point with temper and candor. 
But instead of approving, I perceive a virtuous indignation 
beginning to rise in your minds on the mere cold stating of 
the statute. 

But what will you feel, when you know from history how 
this statute passed, and what were the motives, and what the 
mode of making it ? A party in this nation, enemies to the 
system of the revolution, were in opposition to the government 
of king WilHam. They knew that our glorious deliverer was 
an enemy to all persecution. They knew that he came to free 
us from slavery and popery, out of a country, where a third 
of the people are contented Catholics under a Protestant gov- 
ernment. He came with a part of his army composed of those 
very Catholics, to overset the power of a popish prince. Such 
is the effect of a tolerating spirit ; and so much is liberty served 
in every way, and by all persons, by a manly adherence to 
its own principles. Whilst freedom is true to itself, every- 
thing becomes subject to it ; and its very adversaries are an 
instrument in its hands. 

The party I speak of (like some amongst us who would dis- 



112 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ! 

parage the best friends of their country) resolved to naake the 
king either violate his principles of toleration, or incur the 
odium of protecting Papists. They therefore brought in this 
bill, and made it purposely wicked and absurd that it might be 
rejected. The then court party, discovering their game, turn- 
ed the tables on them, and returned their bill to them stuffed 
with still greater absurdities, that its loss might lie upon its 
original authors. They, finding their ov^^n ball thrown back 
to them, kicked it back again to their adversaries. And thus- 
this act, loaded with the double injustice of two parties, neither 
of whom intended to pass what they hoped the other would 
be persuaded to reject, went through the legislature, contrary 
to the real wish of all parts of it, and of all the parties that 
composed it. In this manner, these insolent and profligate fac- 
tions, as if they were playing with balls and counters, made a 
sport of the fortunes and the liberties of their fellow-creatures. 
Other acts of persecution have been acts of mahce. This 
was a subversion of justice from wantonness and petulance. 
Look into the history of bishop Burnet. He is a witness with- 
out exception. 

Gentlemen, bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny. In 
such a country as this, they are of all bad things the worst: 
worse by far than anywhere else ; and they derive a particu- 
lar malignity even from the wisdom and soundness of the rest 
of our institutions. For very obvious reasons, you cannot trust 
the crown with a dispensing power over any of your laws. 
However, a government, be it as bad as it may, will, in the 
exercise of a discretionary power, discriminate times and per-- 
sons ; and will not ordinarily pursue any man, when its own 
safety is not concerned. A mercenary informer knows no dis- 
tinction. Under such a system, the obnoxious people are 
slaves, not only to the government, but they live at the mercy 
of every individual. They are at once the slaves of the whole 
community, and of every part of it ; and the worst and most 
unmerciful men are those on whose goodness they most 
depend. 

In this situation, men not only shrink from the frowns of a 
stern magistrate, but they are obliged to fly from their very 
species. The seeds of destruction are sown in civil inter- 
course, in social habitudes. The blood of wholesome kindred 
is infected. Their tables and beds are surrounded with snares. 
All the means given by Providence to make life safe and com- 
fortable, are perverted into instruments of terror and torment. 
This species of universal subserviency, that makes the very 
servant who waits behind your chair, the arbiter of your life 
and fortune, has such a tendency to degrade and abase man- 



TO THE ELECTORS OF BRISTOL. 113 

kind, and to deprive them of that assured and liberal state of 
mind, which alone can make us what we ought to be, that I 
vow to God I would sooner bring myself to put a man to im- 
mediate death for opinions I disliked, and so to get rid of the 
man and his opinions at once, than to fret him with a feverish 
being, tainted with the jail distemper of a contagious servitude, 
to keep him above ground, an animated mass of putrefaction; 
corrupted himself, and corrupting all about him. 

The act repealed was of this direct tendency; and it was 
made in the manner which I have related to you. I will now 
tell you by whom the bill of repeal was brought into parha- 
ment. I find it has been industriously given out in this city 
(from kindness to me unquestionably) that I was the mover or 
the seconder. The fact is, I did not once open my lips on the 
subject during the whole progress of the bill. I do not say 
this as disclaiming my share in the measure. Very far from 
it. I inform you of this fact, lest I should seem to arrogate to 
myself the merits which belong to others. To have been the 
man chosen out to redeem our fellow-citizens from slavery; 
to purify our laws from absurdity and injustice ; and to cleanse 
our religion from the blot and stain of persecution, would be 
an honor and happiness to which my wishes would undoubt- 
edly aspire ; but to which nothing but my wishes could possibly 
have entitled me. That great work was in hands in every re- 
spect far better qualified than mine. The mover of the bill 
was Sir George Saville. 

When an act of great and signal humanity was to be done, 
and done wath all the weight and authority that belonged to it, 
the world could cast its eyes upon none but him. I hope that 
few things, which have a tendency to J^less or to adorn life, 
have wholly escaped my observation in my passage through 
it. I have sought the acquaintance of that gentleman, and 
have seen him in all situations. He is a true genius ; with an 
understanding vigorous, and acute, and refined, and distinguish- 
ing even to excess ; and illuminated with a most unbounded, 
pecuHar, and original cast of imagination. With these he 
possesses many external and instrumental advantages; and he 
makes use of them all. His fortune is among the largest ; a 
fortune which, wholly unencumbered, as it is, with one single 
charge from luxury, vanity, or excess, sinks under the benevo- 
lence of its dispenser. This private benevolence, expanding 
itself into patriotism, renders his whole being the estate of the 
pubhc, in which he has not reserved a pectdium for himself of 
profit, diversion, or relaxation. During the session, the first 
in, and the last out of the house of commons ; he passes from 
the senate to the camp; and seldom seeing the seat of his an- 

P 10* 



1X4 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

cestors, he is always in parliament to serve his country, or in 
the field to defend it. But in all well-wrought compositions, 
some particulars stand out more eminently than the rest ; and 
the things which will carry his name to posterity, are his two 
bills ; I mean that for a limitation of the claims of the crown 
upon landed estates ; and this for the relief of the Roman Cath- 
olics. By the former, he has emancipated property ; by the 
latter, he has quieted conscience ; and by both, he has taught 
that grand lesson to government and subject — no longer to re- 
gard each other as adverse parties. 

The seconder was worthy of the mover, and the motion. I 
was not the seconder. It was Mr. Dunning, recorder of this 
city. I shall say the less of him, because his near relation to 
you makes you more particularly acquainted with his merits. 
But I should appear httle acquainted with them, or little sensi-t 
ble of them, if I could utter his name on this occasion without 
expressing my esteem for his character. I am not afraid of 
oftending a most learned body, and most jealous of its reputa- 
tion for that learning, when I say he is the first of his profes- 
sion. It is a point settled by those who settle everything else ; 
and I must add (what I am enabled to say from my own long 
and close observation) that there is not a man, of any profes- 
sion, or in any situation, of a more erect and independent 
spirit ; of a more proud honor ; a more manly mind ; a more 
firm and determined integrity. Assure yourselves, that the 
names of two such men will bear a great load of prejudice in 
the other scale, before they can be entirely outweighed. 

With this mover, and this seconder, agreed the whole house 
of commons ; the whole house of lords ; the whole bench of 
bishops ; the king ; the ministry ; the opposition ; all the dis- 
tinguished clergy of the establishment ; all the eminent lights 
(for they were consulted) of the dissenting churches. This 
according voice of national wisdom ought to be hstened to with 
reverence. To say that all these descriptions of Englishmen 
unanimously concurred in a scheme for introducing the Catho- 
lic rehgion, or that none of them understood the nature and ef- 
fects of what they were doing, so well as a few obscure clubs of 
people, whose names you never heard of, is shamelessly absurd. 
Surely it is paying a miserable compliment to the religion we 
profess, to suggest, that everything eminent in the kingdom is 
indifferent, or even adverse to that religion, and that its secu- 
rity is wholly abandoned to the zeal of those who have nothing 
but their zeal to distinguish them. In weighing this unanimous 
concurrence of whatever the nation has to boast of, I hope you 
will recollect, that all these concurring parties do by no means 



TO THE ELECTORS OF BRISTOL. 115 

love one another enough to agree in any point, which was not 
both evidently, and importantly, right. 

To prove this ; to prove, that the measure was both clearly 
and materially proper, I will next lay before you (as I prom- 
ised) the political grounds and reasons for the repeal of that 
penal statute ; and the motives to its repeal at that particular 
time. 

Gentlemen, America When the English nation seemed 

to be dangerously, if not irrevocably divided ; when one, and 
that the. most growing branch, was torn from the parent stock, 
and ingrafted on the power of France, a great terror fell upon 
this kingdom. On a sudden we awakened from our dreams of 
conquest, and saw ourselves threatened with an immediate 
invasion ; which we were, at that time, very ill prepared to 
resist. You remember the cloud that gloomed over us all. In that 
hour of our dismay, from the bottom of the hiding-places, into 
which the indiscriminate rigor of our statutes had driven them, 
came out the body of the Roman Catholics. They appeared 
before the steps of a tottering throne, with one of the most 
sober, measured, steady, and dutiful addresses, that was ever 
presented to the crown. It was no holiday ceremony; no anni- 
versary compliment of parade and show. It was signed by 
almost every gentleman of that persuasion, of note or property, 
in England. At such a crisis, nothing but a decided resolution 
to stand or fall with their country, could have dictated such an 
address ; the direct tendency of which was to cut off all re- 
treat, and to render them pecuharly obnoxious to an invader 
of their own communion. The address showed, what I long 
languished to see, that all the subjects of England had cast off 
all foreign views and connexions, and that every man looked 
for his relief from every grievance, at the hands only of his 
own natural government. 

It was necessary, on our part, that the natural government 
should show itself worthy of that name. It was necessary, at 
the crisis I speak of, that the supreme power of the state should 
meet the conciliatory dispositions of the subject. To delay 
protection would be to reject allegiance. And why should it 
be rejected, or even coldly and suspiciously received ? If any 
independent CatlioHc state should choose to take part with this 
kingdom in a war with France and Spain, that bigot (if such a 
bigot could be found) would be heard with little respect, who 
could dream of objecting his religion to an ally, whom the na- 
tion would not only receive with its freest thanks, but purchase 
with the last remains of its exhausted treasure. To such an 
ally we should not dare to whisper a single syllable of those 
base and invidious topics, upon which, sonie unhappy men 



116 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

would persuade the state, to reject the duty and allegiance of 
its own members. Is it then because foreigners are in a con- 
dition to set our malice at defiance, that with tliern, we are will- 
ing to contract engagements of friendship, and to keep them 
with fidehty and honor ; but that, because we conceive some 
descriptions of our countrymen are not powerful enough to 
punish our malignity, we will not permit them to support our com- 
mon interest ? Is it on that ground that our anger is to be kindled 
by their offered kindness? Is it on that ground that they are to be 
subjected to penalties, because they are willing, by actual merit, 
to purge themselves from imputed crimes ? Lest by an adhe- 
rence to the cause of their country they should acquire a title 
to fair and equitable treatment, are we resolved to furnish them 
with causes of eternal enmity ; and rather supply them with 
just and founded motives to disaffection, than not to have that 
disaffection in existence to justify an oppression, which, not 
from policy but disposition, we have predetermined to exer- 
cise ? 

What shadow of reason could be assigned, why, at a time 
when the most Protestant part of this Protestant empire found 
it for its advantage to unite with the two principal popish states, 
to unite itself in the closest bonds with France and Spain, for 
our destruction, that we should refuse to unite with our own 
Catholic countrymen for our own preservation ? Ought we, 
like madmen, to tear off the plasters, that the lenient hand of 
prudence had spread over the wounds and gashes, which in 
our delirium of ambition we had given to our own body ? No 
person ever reprobated the American war more than I did, 
and do, and ever shall. But I never will consent that we should 
lay additional voluntary penalties on ourselves, for a fault 
which carries but too much of its own punishment in its own 
nature. For one, I was delighted with the proposal of internal 
peace. I accepted the blessing with thankfulness and trans- 
port ; I was truly happy to find one good effect of our civil dis- 
tractions, that they had put an end to all religious strife and 
heart-burning in our own bowels. What must be the senti- 
ments of a man, who would wish to perpetuate domestic hos- 
tihty, when the causes of dispute are at an end; and who, 
crying out for peace with one part of the nation on the most 
humiliating terms, should deny it to those, who oflfer friendship 
without any terms at all ? 

But if I was unable to reconcile such a denial to the con- 
tracted principles of local duty, what answer could I give to I 
the broad claims of general humanity ? I confess to you freely, \ 
that the sufferings and distresses of the people of America in 
this cruel war, have at times affected me more deeply than I 



TO THE ELECTORS AT BRISTOL, 117 

can express. I felt every Gazette of triumph as a blow upon 
my heart, which has an hundred times sunk and fainted within 
me at all the mischiefs brought upon those who bear the whole 
brunt of war in the heart of their country. Yet the Ameri- 
cans are utter strangers to me ; a nation among whom I am 
not sure that I have a single acquaintance. Was I to suffer 
my mind to be so unaccountably warped ; was I to keep such 
iniquitous weights and measures of temper and of reason, as 
to sympathize with those who are in open rebelHon against an 
authority which I respect, at war with a country which by 
every title ought to be, and is most dear to me ; and yet to 
have no feeling at all for the hardships and indignities suffered 
by men, who, by their very vicinity, are bound up in a nearer 
relation to us; who contribute their share, and more than their 
share, to the common prosperity ; who perform the common 
offices of social life, and who obey the laws to the full as well 
as I do ? Gentlemen, the danger to the state being out of the 
question (of which, let me tell you, statesmen themselves are 
apt to have but too exquisite a sense) I could assign no one 
reason of justice, policy, or feeling, for not concurring most 
cordially, as most cordially I did concur, in softening some 
part of that shameful servitude, under which several of my 
worthy fellow-citizens were groaning. 

I dare say, you have all heard of the privileges indulged to 
the Irish CathoKcs residing in Spain. You have likewise heard 
with what circumstances of severity they have been lately ex- 
pelled from the sea-ports of that kingdom; driven into the 
inland cities ; and there detained as a sort of prisoners of state. 
I have good reason to believe, that it was the zeal to our gov- 
ernment and our cause (somewhat indiscreetly expressed in 
one of the addresses of the Cathohcs of Ireland) which has 
thus drawn down on their heads the indignation of the court of 
Madrid ; to the inexpressible loss of several individuals, and in 
future, perhaps, to the great detriment of the whole of their 
body. Now, that our people should be persecuted in Spain for 
their attachment to this country, and persecuted in this country 
for their supposed enmity to us, is such a jarring reconciliation 
of contradictory distresses, is a thing at once so dreadful and 
ridiculous, that no malice short of diabolical, would wish to 
continue any human creatures in such a situation. But honest 
men will not forget either their merit or their sufferings. There 
are men (and many, I trust, there are) who, out of love to their 
country and their kind, would torture their invention to find 
excuses for the mistakes of their brethren ; and who, to stifle 
dissension, would construe, even doubtful appearances, with the 
utmost favor : such men will never persuade themselves to be 



X 1 8 MR. BURKE'& SPEECH 

ingenious and refined in discovering disaffection and treason in 
the manifest palpable signs of suffering loyalty. Persecution 
is so unnatural to them, that they gladly snatch the very first 
opportunity of laying aside all the tricks and devices of penal 
politics; and of returmng home, after all their irksome and 
vexatious v^^anderings, to our natural family mansion, to the 
grand social principle, that unites all men, of all descriptions, 
under the shadow^ of an equal and impartial justice. 

Men of another sort, I mean the bigoted enemies to liberty, 
may, perhaps, in their politics, make no account of the good 
or ill affection of the Catholics of England, who are but a 
handful of people (enough to torment, but not enough to fear) 
perhaps not so many, of both sexes and of all ages, as fifty 
thousand. But, gentlemen, it is possible you may not know, 
that the people of that persuasion in Ireland amount at least to 
sixteen or seventeen hundred thousand souls. I do not at all 
exaggerate the number. A nation to be persecuted ! Whilst 
we are masters of the sea, embodied with America, and in 
alliance with half the powers of the continent, we might perhaps, 
in that remote corner of Europe, afford to tyrannize with impu- 
nity. But there is a revolution in our affairs, which makes it 
prudent to be just. In our late aw^kward contest with Ireland 
about trade, had religion been thrown in, to ferment and em- 
bitter the mass of discontents, the consequences might have 
been truly dreadful. But very happily, that cause of quarrel 
was previously quieted by the wisdom of the acts I am com- 
mending. 

Even in England, where I admit the danger from the discon- 
tent of that persuasion to be less than in Ireland; yet even 
here, had we hstened to the counsels of fanaticism and folly, 
we might have wounded ourselves very deeply ; and wounded 
ourselves in a very tender part. You are apprized, that the 
Catholics of England consist mostly of your best manufacturers. 
Had the legislature chosen, instead of returning their declara- 
tions of duty with correspondent good will, to drive them to 
despair, there is a country at their very door, to which they 
would be invited ; a country in all respects as good as ours, and 
with the finest cities in the world ready built to receive them. 
And thus the bigotry of a free country, and in an enlightened 
age, would have repeopled the cities of Flanders, which, in the 
darkness of two hundred years ago, had been desolated by the 
superstition of a cruel tyrant. Our manufactures were the 
growth of the persecutions in the Low Countries. What a 
spectacle would it be to Europe, to see us, at this time of day, 
balancing the account of tyranny with those very countries, 
and, by our persecutions, driving back trade and manufacture, 



TO THE ELECTORS OF BRISTOL. 119 

as a sort of vagabonds, to their original settlement,! But I trust 
we shall be saved this last of disgraces. 

So far as to the effect of the act on the interests of this nation. 
With regard to the interests of mankind at large, I am sure the 
benefit was very considerable. Long before this act, indeed, 
the spirit of toleration began to gain ground in Europe. In 
Holland, the third part of the people are Catholics ; they live 
at ease ; and are a sound part of the state. In many parts of 
Germany, Protestants and Papists partake the same cities, the 
same councils, and even the same churches. The unbounded 
liberality of the king of Prussia's conduct on this occasion is 
known to all the world ; and it is of a piece with the other 
grand maxims of his reign. The magnanimity of the imperial 
court, breaking through the narrow principles of its predeces- 
sors, has indulged its Protestant subjects, not only with pro- 
perty, with worship, with liberal education ; but with honors 
and trusts, both civil and military. A worthy Protestant gen- 
tleman of this country now fills, and fills with credit, a high 
office in the Austrian Netherlands. Even the Lutheran obstinacy 
of Sweden has thawed at length, and opened a toleration to all 
religions. I know myself, that in France the Protestants begin 
to be at rest. The army, which in that country is everything, 
is open to them ; and some of the military rewards and decora- 
tions which the laws deny, are supplied by others, to make the 
service acceptable and honorable. The first minister of finance 
in that country, is a Protestant. Two years' war without a tax 
is among the first fruits of their liberality. Tarnished as the 
glory of this nation is, and as far as it has waded into the 
shades of an eclipse, some beams of its former illumination 
still play upon its surface ; and what is done in England is still 
looked to, as argument, and as example. It is certainly true, 
that no law of this country ever met with such universal ap- 
plause abroad, or was so likely to produce the perfection of 
that tolerating spirit, which, as I observed, has been long 
gaining ground in Europe: for abroad, it was universally 
thought that we had done, what, I am sorry to say, we had 
not; they thought we had granted a full toleration. That 
opinion was, however, so far from hurting the Protestant cause, 
that I declare, with the most serious solemnity, my firm belief, 
that no one thing done for these fifty years past, was so likely 
to prove deeply beneficial to our religion at large as Sir George 
Saville's act. In its effects it was, " an act for tolerating and 
protecting Protestantism throughout Europe :" and I hope, that 
those who were taking steps for the quiet and settlement of our 
Protestant brethren in other countries, will even yet, rather 



120 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

consider the steady equity of the greater and better part of the 
people of Great Britain, than the vanity and violence of a fev^. 

I perceive, gentlemen, by the manner of all about me, that 
you look with horror on the wicked clamor which has been 
raised on this subject; and that instead of an apology for what 
was done, you rather demand from me an account, why the 
execution of the scheme of toleration was not made more an- 
swerable to the large and liberal grounds on which it was taken 
up. The question is natural and proper ; and I remember that 
a great and learned magistrate, distinguished for his strong and 
systematic understanding, and who at that time was a member 
of the house of commons, made the same objection to the pro- 
ceeding. The statutes, as they now stand, are, without doubt, 
perfectly absurd. But I beg leave to explain the cause of this 
gross imperfection in the tolerating plan, as well and as shortly 
as I am able. It was universally thought, that the session 
ought not to pass over without doing something in this business. 
To revise the whole body of the penal statutes was conceived 
to be an object too big for the time. The penal statute there- 
fore which was chosen for repeal (chosen to show our disposi- 
tion to conciKate, not to perfect a toleration) was this act of 
ludicrous cruelty, of which I have just given you the history. 
It is an act, which, though not by a great deal so fierce and 
bloody as some of the rest, was infinitely more ready in the 
execution. It was the act which gave the greatest encourage- 
ment to those pests of society, mercenary informers, and inter- 
ested disturbers of household peace ; and it was observed with 
truth, that the prosecutions, either carried to conviction or 
compounded, for many years, had been all commenced upon 
that act. It was said, that whilst we were deliberating on a 
more perfect scheme, the spirit of the age would never come 
up to the execution of the statutes which remained ; especially 
as more steps, and a co-operation of more minds and powers, 
were required towards a mischievous use of them, than for the 
execution of the act to be repealed : that it was better to unravel 
this texture from below than from above, beginning with the 
latest, which, in general practice, is the severest evil. It was 
alleged, that this slow proceeding would be attended with the 
advantage of a progressive experience; and that the people 
would grow reconciled to toleration, when they should find by 
the effects, that justice was not so irreconcilable an enemy to 
convenience as they had imagined. 

These, gentlemen, were the reasons why we left this good 
work in the rude unfinished state, in which good works are 
commonly left, through the tame circumspection with which a 
timid prudemce so frequently enervates beneficence. In doing 



TO THE ELECTORS OF BRISTOL. 121 

good, we are generally cold, and languid, and sluggish ; and of 
all things afraid of being too much in the right. But the works 
of mahce and injustice are quite in another style. They are 
finished with a bold, masterly hand ; touched as they are with 
the spirit of those vehement passions that call forth all our en- 
ergies whenever we oppress and persecute. 

Thus this matter was left for the time, with a full determina- 
tion in parhament, not to suffer other and worse statutes to 
remain for the purpose of counteracting the benefits proposed 
by the repeal of one penal law ; for nobody then dreamed of 
defending what was done as a benefit on the ground of its 
being no benefit at all. We were not then ripe for so mean a 
subterfuge. 

I do not wish to go over the horrid scene that was afterwards 
acted. Would to God it could be expunged for ever from the 
annals of this country ! But since it must subsist for our shame, 
let it subsist for our instruction. In the year 1780, there were 
found in this nation men deluded enough (for I give the whole 
to their delusion) on pretences of zeal and piety, without any 
sort of provocation whatsoever, real or pretended, to make a 
desperate attempt, which would have consumed all the glory 
and power of this country in the flames of London ; and buried 
all law, order, and religion, under the ruins of the metropolis 
of the Protestant world. Whether all this mischief done, or 
in the direct train of doing, was in their original scheme, I 
cannot say. I hope it was not ; but this would have been the 
unavoidable consequende of their proceedings, had not the 
flames they had lighted up in their fury been extinguished in 
their blood. 

All the time that this horrid scene was acting, or avenging, 
as well as for some time before, and ever since, the wicked 
instigators of this unhappy multitude, guilty, with every aggra- 
vation, of all their crimes, and screened in a cowardly dark- 
ness from their punishment, continued, without interruption, 
pity, or remorse, to blow up the blind rage of the populace, with 
a continued blast of pestilential libels, which infected and 
poisoned the very air we breathed in. 

The main drift of all the libels, and all the riots, was, to force 
parliament (to persuade us was hopeless) into an act of national 
perfidy, which has no example. For, gentlemen, it is proper 
you should all know what infamy we escaped by refusing that 
repeal, for a refusal of which, it seems, I, among others, stand 
somewhere or other accused. When we took away, on the 
motives which I had the honor of stating to you, a few of the 
innumerable penalties upon an oppressed and injured people, 
the relief was not absolute^ but given on a stipulation and com- 

Q 11 



122 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

pact between them and us ; for we bound down the Roman 
CathoUcs with the most solemn oaths, to bear true allegiance 
to this government ; to abjure all sort of temporal power in 
any other ; and to renounce, under the same solemn obligations, 
the doctrines of systematic perfidy, with which they stood (I 
conceived very unjustly) charged. Now our modest petitioners 
came up to us, most humbly praying nothing more, than that 
we should break our faith, without any one cause whatsoever 
of forfeiture assigned; and when the subjects of this kingdom 
had, on their part, fully performed their engagement, we should 
refuse, on our part, the benefit we had stipulated on the per- 
formance of those very conditions that were prescribed by our 
own authority, and taken on the sanction of our public faith : that 
is to say, when we had inveigled them with fair promises within 
our door, we were to shut it on them ; and, adding mockery to 
outrage — to tell them ; " Now we have got you fast — your con- 
sciences are bound to a power resolved on your destruction. 
We have made you swear, that your religion obliges you to 
keep your faith : fools as you are ! we will now let you see, 
that our religion enjoins us to keep no faith with you." — They 
who would advisedly call upon us to do such things, must cer- 
tainly have thought us not only a convention of treacherous 
tyrants, but a gang of the lowest and dirtiest wretches that ever 
disgraced humanity. Had we done this, we should have indeed 
proved, that there were some in the world whom no faith could 
bind; and we should have convicted ourselves of that odious 
principle of which Papists stood accused by those very savages, 
who wished us, on that accusation, to deliver them over to 
their fury. 

In this audacious tumult, when our very name and character, 
as gentlemen, was to be cancelled for ever along with the faith 
and honor of the nation, I, who had exerted myself very little 
on the quiet passing of the bill, thought it necessary then to 
come forward. I was not alone ; but though some distinguished 
members on all sides, and particularly on ours, added much to 
their high reputation by the part they took on that day (a part 
which will be remembered as long as honor, spirit, and 
eloquence have estimation in the world) I may and will value 
myself so far, that, yielding in abilities to many, I yielded in 
zeal to none. With warmth and with vigor, and animated with 
a just and natural indignation, I called forth every faculty that 
I possessed, and I directed it in every way in which I could possi- 
bly employ it. I labored night and day. I labored in parHament. 
I labored out of parliament. If therefore the resolution of the 
house of commons, refusing to commit this act of unmatched 
turpitude, be a crime, I am guilty among the foremost. But 



TO THE ELECTORS OF BRISTOL. 123 

indeed, whatever the fauhs of that house may have been, no 
one member was found hardy enough to propose so infamous a 
thing ; and on full debate we passed the resolution against the 
petitions with as much unanimity, as we had formerly passed 
the law of which these petitions demanded the repeal. 

There was a circumstance (justice will not suffer me to pass 
it over) which, if anything could enforc e the reasons I have 
given, would fully justify the act of relief, and render a repeal, 
or anything like a repeal, unnatural, impossible. It was the 
behavior of the persecuted Roman Catholics under the acts of 
violence and brutal insolence, which they suffered. I suppose 
there are not in London less than four or five thousand of that 
persuasion from my country, who do a great deal of the most 
laborious works in the metropolis ; and they chiefly inhabit those 
quarters, which were the principal theatre of the fury of the 
bigoted multitude. They are known to be men of strong arms 
and quick feelings, and more remarkable for a determined 
resolution, than clear ideas, or much foresight. But though 
provoked by everything that can stir the blood of men, their 
houses and chapels in flames, and with the most atrocious 
profanations of everything which they hold sacred before their 
eyes, not a hand was moved to retaliate, or even to defend. 
Had a conflict once begun, the rage of their persecutors would 
have redoubled. Thus fury increasing by the reverberation of 
outrages, house being fired for house, and church for chapel, I 
am convinced, that no power under heaven could have pre- 
vented a general conflagration ; and at this day London would 
have been a tale. But I am well informed, and the thing speaks 
it, that their clergy exerted their whole influence to keep their 
people in such a state of forbearance and quiet, as, when I 
look back, fills me with astonishment ; but not with astonish- 
ment only. • Their merits on that occasion ought not to be for- 
gotten; nor will they, when Englishmen come to recollect 
themselves. I am sure it were far more proper to have called 
them forth, and given them the thanks of both houses of parlia- 
ment, than to have suffered those worthy clergymen, and 
excellent citizens, to be hunted into holes and corners, whilst 
we are making low-minded inquisitions into the number of their 
people ; as if a tolerating principle was never to prevail, unless 
we were very sure that only a few could possibly take advantage 
of it. But indeed we are not well recovered of our fright. Our 
reason, I trust, will return with our security ; and this unfortu- 
nate temper will pass over like a cloud. 

Gentlemen, I have now laid before you a few of the reasons 
for taking away the penalties of the act of 1699, and for re- 
fusing to' establish them on the riotous requisition of 1780. 



124 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

Because I would not suffer anything which may be for your 
satisfaction to escape, permit me just to touch on the objections 
urged against our act and our resolves, and intended as a jus- 
tification of the violence offered to both houses. " Parlia- 
ment," they assert, " was too hasty, and they ought, in so es- 
sential and alarming a change, to have proceeded with a far 
greater degree of deliberation." The direct contrary. Par- 
liament was too slow. They took four-score years to delibe- 
rate on the repeal of an act which ought not to have survived 
a second session. When at length, after a procrastination of 
near a century, the business was taken up, it proceeded in the 
most public manner, by the ordinary stages, and as slowly as 
a law so evidently right as to be resisted by none, would natu- 
rally advance. Had it been read three times in one day, we 
should have shown only a becoming readiness to recognize by 
protection the undoubted dutiful behavior of those whom w& 
had but too long punished for offences of presumption or con- 
jecture. But for what end was that bill to linger beyond the 
usual period of an unopposed measure ? Was it to be delayed 
until a rabble in Edinburgh should dictate to the church of 
England what measure of persecution was fitting for her safe- 
ty? Was it to be adjourned until a fanatical force could be 
collected in London, sufl[icient to frighten us out of all our 
ideas of policy and justice ? Were we to wait for the profound 
lectures on the reasons of state, ecclesiastical and political, 
which the Protestant Association have since condescended to 
read to us ? Or were we, seven hundred peers and common- 
ers, the only persons ignorant of the ribald invectives which 
occupy the place of argument in those remonstrances, which 
every man of common observation had heard a thousand times 
over, and a thousand times over had despised ? All men had 
before heard what they have to say ; and all men at this day 
know what they dare to do ; and I trust, all honest men are 
equally influenced by the one, and by the other. 

But they tell us, that those of our fellow-citizens, whose chains 
we had a httle relaxed, are enemies to liberty and our free 
constitution. — Not enemies, I presume, to their aum liberty. 
And as to the constitution, until we give them some share in 
it, I do not know on what pretence we can examine into their 
opinions about a business in which they have no interest or 
concern. But after all, are we equally sure, that they are ad- 
verse to our constitution, as that our statutes are hostile and 
destructive to them? For my part, I have reason to believe, 
their opinions and inclinations in that respect are various, ex- 
actly like those of other men : and if they lean more to the 
crown than I, and than many of you think we ought, we must 



TO THE ELECTORS OF BRISTOL. 125 

remember, that he who aims at another's Hfe, is not to be sur- 
prised if he flies into any sanctuary that will receive him. 
The tenderness of the executive power is the natural asylum 
of those upon whom the laws have declared war ; and to com- 
plain that men are inclined to favor the means of their own 
safety, is so absurd, that one forgets the injustice in the 
ridicule. 

I must fairly tell you, that so far as my principles are con- 
cerned (principles, that I hope will only depart with my last 
breath) that I have no idea of a liberty unconnected with hon- 
esty and justice. Nor do I believe, that any good constitutions 
of government or of freedom, can find it necessary for their 
security to doom any part of the people to a permanent 
slavery. Such a constitution of freedom, if such can be, is 
in effect no more than another name for the tyranny of the 
strongest faction ; and factions in republics have been, and 
are, full as capable as monarchs, of the most cruel oppression 
and injustice. It is but too true, that the love, and even the 
very idea, of genuine liberty, is extremely rare. It is but too 
true, that there are many, whose whole scheme of freedom 
is made up of pride, perverseness, and insolence. They feel 
themselves in a state of thraldom, they imagine that their souls 
are cooped and cabined in, unless they have some man, or 
some body of men, dependent on their mercy. This desire of 
having some one below them, descends to those who are the 
very lowest of all — and a Protestant cobbler, debased by his 
poverty, but exalted by his share of the ruling church, feels a 
pride in knowing it is by his generosity alone, that the peer, 
whose footman's instep he measures, is able to keep his chap- 
lain from a jail. This disposition is the true source of the pas-, 
sion, which many men in very humble life have taken to the 
American war. Our subjects in America ; our colonies ; our 
dependants. This lust of party power is the liberty they hun- 
ger and thirst for ; and this siren song of ambition, has charm- 
ed ears, that one would have thought were never organized to 
that sort of music. 

This way, of proscribing the citizens by denominations and 
general descriptions, dignified by the name of reason of state, 
and security for constitutions and commonwealths, is nothing 
better at bottom, than the miserable invention of an ungene- 
rous ambition, which would fain hold the sacred trust of power, 
without any of the virtues or any of the energies, that give a 
title to it ; a receipt of policy, made up of a detestable com- 
pound of mahce, cowardice, and sloth. They would govern 
men against their will ; but in that government they would be 
discharged from the exercise of vigilance, providence, and for- 

11# 



126 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

titude ; and therefore, that they may sleep on their watch, they 
consent to take some one division of the society into partner- 
ship of the tyranny over the rest. But let government, in what 
form it may be, comprehend the whole in its justice, and re- 
strain the suspicious by its vigilance ; let it keep watch and 
ward ; let it discover by its sagacity, and punish by its firm- 
ness, all dehnquency against its power, whenever dehnquency 
exists in the overt acts ; and then it will be as safe as ever God 
and nature intended it should be. Crimes are the acts of indi- 
viduals, and not of denominations ; and therefore arbitrarily 
to class men under general descriptions, in order to proscribe 
and punish them in the lump for a presumed dehnquency, of 
which perhaps but a part, perhaps none at all, are guilty, is 
indeed a compendious method, and saves a world of trouble 
about proof; but such a method, instead of being law, is an 
act of unnatural rebellion against the legal dominion of reason 
and justice ; and this vice, in any constitution that entertains 
it, at one time or other, will certainly bring on its ruin. 

We are told that this is not a religious persecution, and its 
abettors are loud in disclaiming all severities on account of 
conscience. Very fine, indeed ! then let it be so ! they are not 
persecutors ; they are only tyrants. "With all my heart. I am 
perfectly indiflferent concerning the pretexts upon which we 
torment one another ; or whether it be for the constitution of 
the church of England, or for the constitution of the state of 
England, that people choose to make their fellow-creatures 
wretched. When we were sent into a place of authority, you 
that sent us had yourselves but one commission to give. You 
could give us none to wrong or oppress, or even to suffer any 
kind of oppression or wrong, on any grounds whatsoever ; not 
on political, as in the aflfairs of America ; not on commercial, 
as in those of Ireland ; not in civil, as in the laws for debt ; 
not in religious, as in the statutes against Protestant or Catho- 
Hc dissenters. The diversified but connected fabric of univer- 
sal justice, is well cramped and bolted together in all its parts ; 
and depend upon it, I never have employed, and I never shall 
employ, any engine of power which may come into my hands, 
to wrench it asunder. All shall stand, if I can help it, and all 
shall stand connected. After all, to complete this work, much 
remains to be done ; much in the east, much in the west. But 
great as the work is, if our will be ready, our powers are not 
deficient. 

Since you have suffered me to trouble you so much on this 
subject, permit me, gentlemen, to detain you a little longer. I 
am, indeed, most sohcitous to give you perfect satisfaction. I 
find there are some of a better and softer nature than the 



TO THE ELECTORS OF BRISTOL. 127 

persons with whom I have supposed myself in debate, who 
neither think ill of the act of rehef, nor by any means desire 
the repeal, not accusing but lamenting what was done, on account 
of the consequences, have frequently expressed their wish, that 
the late act had never been made. Some of this description, 
and persons of worth, I have met with in this city. They 
conceive, that the prejudices, whatever they might be, of a large 
part of the people, ought not to have been shocked ; that their 
opinions ought to have been previously taken, and much attended 
to ; and that thereby the late horrid scenes might have been 
prevented. 

I confess, my notions are widely different ; and I never was 
less sorry for any action of my life. I like the bill the better, 
on account of the events of all kinds that followed it. It relieved 
the real sufferers ; it strengthened the state ; and, by the dis- 
orders that ensued, we had clear evidence that there lurked a 
temper somewhere, which ought not to be fostered by the laws. 
No ill consequences whatever could be attributed to the act 
itself. We knew beforehand, or we were poorly instructed, 
that toleration is odious to the intolerant; freedom to oppressors; 
property to robbers ; and all kinds and degrees of prosperity to 
the envious. We knew% that all these kinds of men would gladly 
gratify their evil dispositions under the sanction of law and 
religion, if they could : if they could not, yet, to make way to 
their objects, they would do their utmost to subvert all reHgion 
and all law. This we certainly knew. But knowing this, is 
there any reason, because thieves break in and steal, and thus 
bring detriment to you, and draw ruin on themselves, that I am 
to be sorry that you are in possession of shops, and of ware- 
houses, and of wholesome laws to protect them ? Are you to 
build no houses, because desperate men may pull them down 
upon their own heads ? Or, if a malignant wretch will cut his 
own throat because he sees you give alms to the necessitous 
and deserving; shall his destruction be attributed to your charity, 
and not to his own deplorable madness ? If we repent of our 
good actions, what, I pray you, is left for our faults and follies ? 
It is not the beneficence of the laws, it is the unnatural temper 
which beneficence can fret and sour, that is to be lamented. It 
is this temper which, by all rational means, ought to be sweet- 
ened and corrected. If froward men should refuse this cure, 
can they vitiate anything but themselves ? Does evil so react 
upon good, as not only to retard its motion, but to change its 
nature 1 If it can so operate, then good men will always be in 
the power of the bad; and virtue, by a dreadful reverse of order, 
must lie under perpetual subjection and bondage to vice. 

As to the opinion of the people, which some think, in such 



128 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

cases, is to be implicitly obeyed ; near two years' tranquillity, 
which followed the act, and its instant imitation in Ireland, 
proved abundantly, that the late horrible spirit was, in a great 
measure, the effect of insidious art, and perverse industry, and 
gross misrepresentation. But suppose that the dislike had been 
much more deliberate, and much more general, than I am per- 
suaded it was. When we know, that the opinions of even the 
greatest multitudes are the standard of rectitude, I shall think 
myself obliged to make those opinions the masters of my 
conscience. But if it may be doubted whether Omnipotence 
itself is competent to alter the essential constitution of right 
and wrong, sure I am, that such things, as they and I, are 
possessed of no such power. No man carries further than I 
do the policy of making government pleasing to the people. 
But the widest range of this politic complaisance is confined 
within the limits of justice. I would not only consult the interests 
of the people, but 1 would cheerfully gratify their humors. We 
are all a sort of children that must be soothed and managed. 
I think I am not austere or formal in my nature. I would bear, 
I would even myself play my part in, any innocent buffooneries, 
to divert them. But I never will act the tyrant for their amuse- 
ment. If they will mix mahce in their sports, I shall never 
consent to throw them any living, sentient creature whatsoever ; 
no, not so much as a kitling, to torment. 

" But if I profess all this impolitic stubbornness, I may chance 
never to be elected into parliament." It is certainly not pleasing 
to be put out of the public service. But I wish to be a member 
of parliament, to have my share of doing good, and resisting 
evil. It would therefore be absurd to renounce my objects, in 
order to obtain my seat. I deceive myself indeed most grossly, 
if I had not much rather pass the remainder of my life hidden 
in the recesses of the deepest obscurity, feeding my mind even 
with the visions and imaginations of such things, than to be 
placed on the most splendid throne of the universe, tantalized 
with a denial of the practice of all which can make the greatest 
situation any other than the greatest curse. Gentlemen, I have 
had my day. I can never sufficiently express my gratitude to 
you for having set me in a place, wherein I could lend the 
slightest help to great and laudable designs. If I have had my 
share, in any measure giving quiet to private property, and 
private conscience ; if by my vote I have aided in securing to 
families the best possession, peace ; if I have joined in reconcil- 
ing kings to their subjects, and subjects to their prince ; if I 
have assisted to loosen the foreign holdings of the citizen, and 
taught him to look for his protection to the laws of his country, 
and for his comfort to the good- will of his countrymen ;— if I 



TO THE ELECTORS OF BRISTOL. 12^ 

have thus taken my part with the best of men in the best of 
their actions, I can shut the book. I might wish to read a page 
or two more ; but this is enough for my measure. — ^I have not 
hved in vain. 

And now, gentlemen, on this serious day, when I come, as it 
were, to make up my account with you, let me take to myself 
some degree of honest pride on the nature of the charges that 
are against me. I do not here stand before you accused of 
venahty, or of neglect of duty. It is not said, that, in the long 
period of my service, I have, in a single instance, sacrificed the 
slightest of your interests to my ambition, or to my fortune. 
It is not alleged, that, to gratify any anger or revenge of my 
own, or of my party, I have had a share in wronging or 
oppressing any description of men, or any one man in any 
description. No ! the charges against me are all of one kind, 
that I have pushed the principles of general justice and benevo- 
lence too far ; further than a cautious policy would warrant ; 
and further than the opinions of many would go along with me. 
— In every accident which may happen through life, in pain, 
in sorrow, in depression, and distress, I will call to mind this 
accusation, and be comforted. 



ti 



MR. BURKE'S SPEECH, 

ON THE NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 

The times we live in, Mr. Speaker, have been distinguished 
by extraordinary events. Habituated, as we are, to uncom- 
mon combinations of men and of affairs, I beHeve nobody 
recollects anything more surprising than the spectacle of this 
day. The right honorable gentleman, whose conduct is now 
in question, formerly stood forth in this house, the prosecutor 
of the worthy baronet who spoke after him. He charged him 
with several grievous acts of malversation in office; with 
abuses of a public trust of a great and heinous nature. In less 
than two years we see the situation of parties reversed ; and a 
singular revolution puts the worthy baronet in a fair way of 
returning the prosecution in a recriminatory bill of pains and 
penalties, grounded on a breach of public trust, relative to the 
government of the very same part of India. If he should un- 
dertake a bill of that kind, he will find no difficulty in conduct- 
ing it with a degree of skill and vigor fully equal to all that 
have been exerted against him. 

But the change of relation between these two gentlemen is 
not so striking as the total difference of their deportment under 
the same unhappy circumstances. Whatever the merits of 
the worthy baronet's defence might have been, he did not 
shrink from the charge. He met it with manliness of spirit, 
and decency of behavior. What would have been thought of 
him, if he had held the present language of his old accuser? 
When articles were exhibited against him by that right honor- 
able gentleman, he did not think proper to tell the house that 
we ought to institute no inquiry, to inspect no paper, to exam- 
ine no witness. He did not tell us (what at that time he might 
have told us with some show of reason) that our concerns in 
India were matters of delicacy; that to divulge anything rela- 
tive to them would be mischievous to the state. He did not 
tell us, that those who would inquire into his proceedings were 
disposed to dismember the empire. He had not the presump- 
tion to say, that, for his part, having obtained, in his Indian 
presidency, the ultimate object of his ambition, his honor was 
concerned in executing with integrity the trust which had been 
legally committed to his charge. That others, not having been 



SPEECH ON THE NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 131 

SO fortunate, could not be so disinterested ; and therefore their 
accusations could spring from no other source than faction, 
and envy to his fortune. 

Had he been frontless enough to hold such vain, vaporing 
language in the face of a grave, a detailed, a specified matter 
of accusation, whilst he violently resisted everything which 
could bring the merits of his cause to the test ; had he been 
wild enough to anticipate the absurdities of this day ; that is, 
had he inferred, as his late accuser has thought proper to do, 
that he could not have been guilty of malversation in office, 
for this sole and curious reason, that he had been in office ; had 
he argued the impossibility of his abusing his power on this 
sole principle, that he had power to abuse, he would have left 
but one impression on the mind of every man who heard him, 
and who believed him in his senses — that in the utmost extent 
he was guilty of the charge. 

But, Sir, leaving these two gentlemen to alternate, as crim- 
inal and accuser, upon what principles they think expedient ; it 
is for us to consider. Whether the chancellor of the exchequer, 
and the treasurer of the navy, acting as a board of control, 
are justified by law or policy, in suspending the legal arrange- 
ments made by the court of directors, in order to transfer the 
pubhc revenues to the private emolument of certain servants 
of the East India company, without the inquiry into the origin 
and justice of their claims prescribed by an act of parliament ? 

It is not contended that the act of parliament did not ex- 
pressly ordain an inquiry. It is not asserted that this inquiry 
was not, with equal precision of terms, specially committed 
under particular regulations to the court of directors. I con- 
ceive, therefore, the board of control had no right whatsoever 
to intermeddle in that business. There is nothing certain in 
the principles of jurisprudence, if this be not undeniably true, 
that when a special authority is given to any persons by name, 
to do some particular act, no others, by virtue of general pow- 
ers, can obtain a legal title to intrude themselves into that trust, 
and to exercise those special functions in their place. I there- 
fore consider the intermeddhng of ministers in this affair as' 
a downright usurpation. But if the strained construction by 
which they have forced themselves into a suspicious office 
(which every man delicate with regard to character, would 
rather have sought constructions to avoid) were perfectly 
sound and perfectly legal, of this I am certain, that they can- 
not be justified in declining the inquiry which had been pre- 
scribed to the court of directors. If the board of control did 
lawfully possess the right of executing the special trust given 
to that court, they must take it as they found it, subject to the 



132 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

very same regulations which bound the court of directors. It 
will be allowed that the court of directors had no authority to 
dispense with either the substance, or the mode of inquiry, pre- 
scribed by the act of parliament. If they had not, where, in 
the act, did the board of control acquire that capacity ? In- 
deed, it was impossible they should acquire it. — What must we 
think of the fabric and texture of an act of parliament which 
should find it necessary to prescribe a strict inquisition ; that 
should descend into minute regulations for the conduct of that 
inquisition ; that should commit this trust to a particular de- 
scription of men, and in the very same breath should enable 
another body, at their own pleasure, to supersede all the pro- 
visions the legislature had made, and to defeat the whole pur- 
pose, end, and object of the law ? This cannot be supposed 
even of an act of parhament conceived by the ministers them- 
selves, and brought forth during the delirium of the last session. 
My honorable friend has told you in the speech which intro- 
duced his motion, that fortunately this question is not a great 
deal involved in the labyrinths of Indian detail. Certainly not. 
But if it were, I beg leave to assure you, that there is nothing 
in the Indian detail which is more difficult than in the detail of 
any other business. I admit, because I have some experience 
of the fact, that for the interior regulation of India, a minute 
knowledge of India is requisite. But, on any specific matter 
of dehnquency in its government, you are as capable of judg- 
ing, as if the same thing were done at your door. Fraud, in- 
justice, oppression, peculation, engendered in India, are crimes 
of the same blood, family, and cast with those that are born 
and bred in England. To go no further than the case before 
us : you are just as competent to judge whether the sum of 
four millions sterling ought, or ought not, to be passed from 
the public treasury into a private pocket, without any title ex- 
cept the claim of the parties, when the issue of fact is laid in 
Madras, as when it is laid in Westminster. Terms of art, 
indeed, are different in diflferent places, but they are generally 
understood in none. The technical style of an Indian treasury 
is not one jot more remote than the jargon of our own exche- 
quer, from the train of our ordinary ideas, or the idiom of our 
common language. The difl^erence, therefore, in the two cases 
is not in the comparative difficulty or facility of the two sub- 
jects, but in our attention to the one, and our total neglect of 
the other. Had this attention and neglect been regulated by 
the value of the several objects, there would be nothing to 
complain of. But the reverse of that supposition is true. The 
scene of the Indian abuse is distant indeed ; but we must not 
infer, that the value of our interest in it is decreased in propor- 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 133 

tion as it recedes from our view. In our politics, as in our 
common conduct, we shall be worse than infants, if we do not 
put our senses under the tuition of our judgment, and effectually 
cure ourselves of that optical illusion which makes a briar at 
our nose of greater magnitude than an oak at five hundred 
yards distant. 

I think I can trace all the calamities of this country to the 
single source of our not having had steadily before our eyes a 
general, comprehensive, well-connected, and well-proportioned 
view of the whole of our dominions, and a just sense of their 
true bearings and relations. After all its reductions, the British 
empire is still vast and various. After all the reductions of the 
house of commons (stripped as we are of our brightest orna- 
ments, and of our most important privileges) enough are yet 
left to furnish us, if we please, with means of showing to the 
world, that we deserve the superintendence of as large an em- 
pire as this kingdom ever held, and the continuance of as ample 
privileges as the house of commons, in the plenitude of its 
power, had been habituated to assert. But if, we make our- 
selves too little for the sphere of our duty ; if, on the contrary, 
we do not stretch and expand our minds to the compass of 
their object, be well assured, that everything about us will 
dwindle by degrees, until at length our concerns are shrunk to 
the dimensions of our minds. It is not a predilection to mean, 
sordid, home-bred cares, that will avert the consequences of a 
false estimation of our interest, or prevent the shameful dilapi- 
dation into which a great empire must fall, by mean repara- 
tions upon mighty ruins. 

I confess I feel a degree of disgust, almost leading to despair, 
at the manner in which we are acting in the great exigencies 
of our country. There is now a bill in this house, appointing 
a rigid inquisition into the minutest detail of our offices at home. 
The collection of sixteen millions annually; a collection on 
which the pubUc greatness, safety, and credit have their reli- 
ance ; the whole order of criminal jurisprudence, which holds 
together society itself, have at no time obliged us to call forth 
such powers ; no, nor anything like them. There is not a prin- 
ciple of the law and constitution of this country that is not 
subverted to favor the execution of that project. And for 
what is all this apparatus of bustle and terror ? Is it because 
anything substantial is expected from it ? No. The stir and 
bustle itself is the end proposed. The eye-servants of a short- 
sighted master will employ themselves, not on what is most 
essential to his affairs, but on what is nearest to his ken. Great 
difficulties have given a just value to economy ; and our minis- 
ter of the day must be an economist, whatever it may cost us. 

12 



134 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

But where is he to exert his talents ? At home, to be sure ; for 
where else can he obtain a profitable credit for their exertion? 
It is nothing to him, whether the object on which he works 
under our eye be promising or not. If he does not obtain any 
public benefit, he may make regulations without end. Those are 
sure to pay in present expectation, whilst the effect is at a dis- 
tance, and may be the concern of other times, and other men. 
On these principles he chooses to suppose (for he does not pre- 
tend more than to suppose) a naked possibility, that he shall 
draw some resource out of crumbs dropped from the trenchers 
of penury ; that something shall be laid in store from the short 
allowance of revenue officers, overloaded with duty, and fam- 
ished for want of bread ; by a reduction from officers who are 
at this very hour ready to batter the treasury with what breaks 
through stone walls, for an increase of their appointments. 
From the marrowless bones of these skeleton estabhshments, 
by the use of every sort of cutting, and of every sort of fretting 
tool, he flatters himself that he may chip and rasp an empirical 
ahmentary powder, to diet into some similitude of health and 
substance the languishing chimeras of fraudulent reformation. 

Whilst he is thus employed according to his policy and to 
his taste, he has not leisure to inquire into those abuses in India 
that are drawing oflf money by millions from the treasures of 
this country, which are exhausting the vital juices from mem- 
bers of the state, where the public inanition is far more sorely 
felt than in the local exchequer of England. Not content with 
winking at these abuses, whilst he attempts to squeeze the 
laborious ill-paid drudges of English revenue, he lavishes in one 
act of corrupt prodigality, upon those who never served the 
public in any honest occupation at all, an annual income equal 
to two thirds of the whole collection of the revenues of this 
kingdom. 

Actuated by the same principle of choice, he has now on the 
anvil another scheme, full of difficulty and desperate hazard, 
which totally alters the commercial relation of two kingdoms ; 
and what end soever it shall have, may bequeath a legacy of 
heart-burning and discontent to one of the countries, perhaps 
to both, to be perpetuated to the latest posterity. This project 
is also undertaken on the hope of profit. It is provided, that 
out of some (I know not what) remains of the Irish hereditary 
revenue, a fund at some time, and of some sort, should be 
applied to the protection of the Irish trade. Here we are com- 
manded again to task our faith, and to persuade ourselves, that 
out of the surplus of deficiency, out of the savings of habitual 
and systematic prodigality, the minister of wonders will pro- 
vide support for this nation, sinking under the mountainous load 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 135 

of two hundred and thirty millions of debt. But whilst we 
look with pain at his desperate and laborious trifling ; whilst we 
are apprehensive that he will break his back in stooping to pick 
up chaff" and straw^s, he recovers himself at an elastic bound, 
and with a broad-cast swing of his arms, he squanders over 
his Indian field a sum far greater than the clear produce of the 
whole hereditary revenue of the kingdom of Ireland. 

Strange as this scheme of conduct in ministry is, and incon- 
sistent with all just pohcy, it is still true to itself, and faithful to 
its own perverted order. Those who are bountiful to crimes, 
will be rigid to merit, and penurious to service. Their penury 
is even held out as a blind and cover to their prodigality. The 
economy of injustice is to furnish resources for the fund of 
corruption. Then they pay off" their protection to great crimes 
and great criminals, by being inexorable to the paltry frailties 
of little men; and these modern flagellants are sure, wath a 
rigid fldelity, to whip their own enormities on the vicarious 
back of every small offender. 

It is to draw your attention to economy of quite another 
order; it is to animadvert on offences of a far different de- 
scription, that my honorable friend has brought before you the 
motion of this day. It is to perpetuate the abuses w^hich are 
subverting the fabric of your empire, that the motion is opposed. 
It is therefore with reason (and if he has power to carry him- 
self through, I commend his prudence) that the right honorable 
gentleman makes his stand at the very outset; and boldly 
refuses all parliamentary information. Let him admit but one 
step towards inquiry, and he is undone. You must be ignorant, 
or he cannot be safe. But before his curtain is let down, and 
the shades of eternal night shall veil our eastern dominions 
from our view, permit me, sir, to avail myself of the means 
which were furnished in anxious and inquisitive times, to de- 
monstrate out of this single act of the present minister, what 
advantages you ^re to derive from permitting the greatest 
concern of this nation to be separated from the cognizance, 
and exempted even out of the competence, of parliament. The 
greatest body of your revenue, your most numerous armies, 
your most important commerce, the richest sources of your 
pubhc credit, (contrary to every idea of the known settled 
pohcy of England) are on the point of being converted into a 
mystery of state. You are going to have one half of the 
globe hid even from the common liberal curiosity of an English 
gentleman. Here a grand revolution commences. Mark the 
period, and mark the circumstances. In most of the capital 
changes that are recorded in the principles and system of any 
government, a pubHc benefit of some kind or other has been 



1 



136 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

pretended. The revolution commenced in something plausible, 
in something which carried the appearance at least of punish- 
ment of dehnquency, or correction of abuse. But here, in the 
very moment of the conversion of a department of British 
government into an Indian mystery, and in the yery act in 
which the change commences, a corrupt, private interest is set 
up in direct opposition to the necessities of the nation. A 
diversion is made of milKons of the public money from the 
public treasury to a private purse. It is not into secret nego- 
tiations for war, peace, or alliance, that the house of commons 
is forbidden to inquire. It is a matter of account ; it is a pecu- 
niary transaction; it is the demand of a suspected steward 
upon ruined tenants and an embarrassed master, that the com- 
mons of Great Britain are commanded not to inspect. The 
whole tenor of the right honorable gentleman's argument is 
consonant to the nature of his policy. The system of conceal- 
ment is fostered by a system of falsehood. False facts, false 
colors, false names of persons and things, are its whole support. 

Sir, I mean to follow the right honorable gentleman over 
that field of deception, clearing what he has purposely obscured, 
and fairly stating what it was necessary for him to misrepre- 
sent. For this purpose, it is necessary you should know with 
some degree of distinctness, a little of the locahty, the nature, 
the circumstances, the magnitude of the pretended debts on 
which this marvellous donation is founded, as well as of the 
persons from whom and by whom it is claimed. 

Madras, with its dependencies, is the second (but with a long 
interval, the second) member of the British empire in the east. 
The trade of that city, and of the adjacent territory, was, not 
very long ago, among the most flourishing in Asia. But since 
the establishment of the British power, it has wasted away 
under a uniform, gradual decline ; insomuch that in the year 
1779 not one merchant of eminence was to be found in the 
whole country. During this period of decay, about six hundred 
thousand sterling pounds a year have been drawn off by Eng- 
Ush gentlemen on their private account, by the way of China 
alone. If we add four hundred thousand, as probably remitted 
through other channels, and in other mediums, that is, in jewels, 
gold, and silver directly brought to Europe, and in bills upon 
the British and foreign companies, you will scarcely think the 
matter over-rated. If we fix the commencement of this 
extraction of money from the Carnatic at a period no earlier 
than the year 1760, and close it in the year 1780, it probably 
will not amount to a great deal less than twenty millions of 
money. 

During the deep silent flow of this steady stream of wealth, 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 1 37 

which set from India into Europe, it generally passed on with 
no adequate observation; but happening at some periods to 
meet rifts of rocks that checked its course, it grew more noisy, 
and attracted more notice. The pecuniary discussions caused 
by an accumulation of part of the fortunes of their servants in 
a debt from the nabob of Arcot, was the first thing which very 
particularly called for, and long engaged, the attention of the 
court of directors. This debt amounted to eight hundred and 
eighty thousand pounds sterling, and was claimed, for the 
greater part, by Enghsh gentlemen, residing at Madras. This 
grand capital, settled at length by order at ten per cent, afforded 
an annuity of eighty-eight thousand pounds. 

Whilst the directors were digesting their astonishment at this 
information, a memorial was presented to them from three 
gentlemen, informing them that their friends had lent hkewise, 
to merchants of Canton in China, a sum of not more than one 
million sterhng. In this memorial they called upon the com- 
pany for their assistance and interposition with the Chinese 
government for the recovery of the debt. This sum lent to 
Chinese merchants, was at 24 per cent, which w^ould yield, if 
paid, an annuity of two hundred and forty thousand pounds. 

Perplexed as the directors were with these demands, you 
may conceive, Sir, that they did not find themselves very much 
disembarrassed, by being made acquainted that they must again 
exert their influence for a new reserve of the happy parsimony 
of their servants, collected into a second debt from the nabob 
of Arcot, amounting to two milUons four hundred thousand 
pounds, settled at an interest of 12 per cent. This is known by 
the name of the Consolidation of 1777, as the former of the 
nabob's debts was by the title of the Consolidation of 1767. 
To this was added, in a separate parcel, a little reserve called 
the Cavalry debt, of one hundred and sixty thousand pounds, at 
the same interest. The whole of these four capitals, amounting 
to four millions four hundred and forty thousand pounds, pro- 
duced at their several rates, annuities amounting to six hundred 
and twenty-three thousand pounds a year ; a good deal more 
than one third of the clear land-tax of England, at four 
shillings in the pound ; a good deal more than double the whole 
annual dividend of the East India company, the nominal mas- 
ters to the proprietors in these funds. Of this interest, three 
hundred and eighty-three thousand two hundred pounds a year 
stood chargeable on the public revenues of the Carnatic. 

Sir, at this moment, it will not be necessary to consider the 
various operations which the capital and interest of this debt 
have successively undergone. I shall speak to these operations 

S 12 * 



138 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

when I come particularly to answer the right honorable gentle- 
man on each of the heads, as he has thought proper to divide 
them. But this was the exact view in which these debts first 
appeared to the court of directors, and to the world. It varied 
afterwards. But it never appeared in any other than a most 
questionable shape. When this gigantic phantom of debt first 
appeared before a young minister, it naturally would have jus- 
tified some degree of doubt and apprehension. Such a prodigy 
would have filled any common man with superstitious fears. 
He would exorcise that shapeless, nameless form, and by 
everything sacred would have adjured it to tell by what means 
a small number of slight individuals, of no consequence or 
situation, possessed of no lucrative offices, without the com- 
mand of armies, or the known administration of revenues, 
without profession of any kind, without any sort of trade suffi- 
cient to employ a pedlar, could have, in a few years (as to 
some even in a few months) amassed treasures equal to the 
revenues of a respectable kingdom ? Was it not enough to put 
these gentlemen, in the noviciate of their administration, on 
their guard, and to call upon them for a strict inquiry (if not to 
justify them in a reprobation of those demands without any 
inquiry at all) that when all England, Scotland, and Ireland 
had for years been witness to the immense sums laid out by the 
servants of the company in stocks of all denominations, in the 
purchase of lands, in the buying and building of houses, in the 
securing "quiet seats in parliament, or in the tumultuous riot of 
contested elections, in wandering throughout the whole ran^e 
of those variegated modes of inventive prodigality, which 
sometimes have excited our wonder, sometimes roused our in- 
dignation ; that after all India was four millions still in debt to 
iheml India in debt to tkem! For what? Every debt for 
which an equivalent of some kind or other is not given, is on 
the face of it a fraud. What is the equivalent they have given ? 
What equivalent had they to give ? What are the articles of 
commerce, or the branches of manufacture, which those gentle- 
men have carried hence to enrich India ? What are the sci- 
ences they beamed out to enlighten it ? What are the arts they 
introduced to cheer and to adorn it ? What are the religious, 
what the moral institutions they have taught among that people 
as a guide to life, or as a consolation when life is to be no 
more, that there is an eternal debt, a debt " still paying, still to 
owe," which must be bound on the present generation in India, 
and entailed on their mortgaged posterity for ever? A debt of 
millions, in favor of a set of men, whose names, with few ex- 
ceptions, are either buried in the obscurity of their origin and 
talents, or dragged into light by the enormity of their crimes ? 



N^ABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 139 

If this body of private claims of debt, real or devised, were 
a question, as it is falsely pretended, betv^een the nabob of 
Arcot, as debtor, and Paul Benfield and his associates, as cred- 
itors, I am sure I should give myself but little trouble about it. 
If the hoards of oppression were the fund for satisfying the 
claims of bribery and peculation, who would wish to interfere 
between such litigants ? If the demands were confined to what 
might be drawn from the treasures which the company's records 
uniformly assert that the nabob is in possession of; or if he had 
mines of gold, or silver, or diamonds (as we know that he has 
none) these gentlemen might break open his hoards, or dig in 
his mines, without any disturbance from me. But the gentlemen 
on the other . side of the house know as well as I do, and they 
dare not contradict me, that the nabob of Arcot and his creditors 
are not adversaries, but collusive parties, and that the whole 
transaction is under a false color and false names. The litiga- 
tion is not, nor ever has been, between their rapacity and his 
hoarded riches. No ; it is between him and them combining 
and confederating on one side, and the pubhc revenues, and the 
miserable inhabitants of a ruined country, on the other. These 
^re the real plaintiffs and the real defendants in the suit. Refus- 
ing a shilling from his hoards for the satisfaction of any demand, 
the nabob of Arcot is always ready, nay, he earnestly, and 
with eagerness and passion, contends for delivering up to these 
pretended creditors his territory and his subjects. It is therefore 
not from treasuries and mines, but from the food of your unpaid 
armies, from the blood withheld from the veins, and whipt out 
of the backs of the most miserable of men, that we are to 
pamper extortion, usury, and peculation, under the false names 
of debtors and creditors of state. 

The great patron of these creditors (to whose honor they 
ought to erect statues) the right honorable gentleman, in stating 
the merits which recommended them to his favor, has ranked 
them under three grand divisions. The first, the creditors of 
1767; then the creditors of the cavalry loan; and lastly, the 
creditors of the loan in 1777. Let us examine them one by 
one, as they pass in review before us. 

The first of these loans, that of 1767, he insists, had an indis- 
putable claim upon the public justice. The creditors, he affirms, 
lent their money publicly ; they advanced it with the express 
knowledge and approbation of the company ; and it was con- 
tracted at the moderate interest of ten per cent. In this loan 
the demand is, according to him, not only just, but meritorious 
in a very high degree ; and one would be inclined to believe he 
thought so, because he has put it last in the provision he has 
made for these claims. 



140 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

I readily admit this debt to stand the fairest of the whole ,• 
for whatever may be my suspicions concerning a part of it, I 
can convict it of nothing worse than the most enormous usury. 
But I can convict upon the spot the right honorable gentleman, 
of the most daring misrepresentation in every one fact, without 
any exception, that he has alleged in defence of this loan, and 
of his own conduct with regard to it. I will show you that 
this debt was never contracted with the knowledge of the 
company ; that it had not their approbation ; that they received 
the first intelligence of it with the utmost possible surprise, 
indignation, and alarm. 

So far from being previously apprized of the transaction from 
its origin, that it was two years before the court of directors 
obtained any official intelligence of it. " The dealings of the 
servants with the nabo.b were concealed from the first, until 
they were found out" (says.-Mr. Sayer, the company's counsel) 
" by the report of the country." The presidency, however, at 
last thought proper to send an official account. On this the 
directors tell them, " to your great reproach it has been concealed 
ft'om us. We cannot but suspect this debt to have had its weight 
in yom^ proposed aggrandizement of Mahomed All [the nabob of 
Arcot] ; but whether it has or has not, certain it is, you are 
guilty of a high breach of duty in concealing it from us." 

These expressions, concerning the ground of the transaction, 
its effect, and its clandestine nature, are in the letters, bearing 
date March 17, 1769. After receiving a more full account on 
the 23d March, 1770, they state, that "Messrs. John Pybus, 
John Call, and James Bourchier, as trustees for themselves and 
others of the nabob's private creditors, had proved a deed of 
assignment upon the nabob and his son of FIFTEEN districts 
of the nabob's country, the revenues of which yielded, in time 
of peace, eight lacs of pagodas [320,000/. sterling] annually ; 
and likewise an assignment of the yearly tribute paid the nabob 
from the rajah of Tanjore, amounting to four lacks of rupees 
[40,000/.]" The territorial revenue, at that time possessed by 
these gentlemen, without the knowledge or consent of their 
masters, amounted to three hundred an sixty thousand pounds 
sterling annually. They were making rapid strides to the entire 
possession of the country, when the directors, whom the right 
honorable gentleman states as having authorized these proceed- 
ings, were kept in such profound ignorance of this royal acqui- 
sition of territorial revenue by their servants, that in the same 
letter they say, " this assignment was obtained by three of the 
members of your board, in January 1767, yet we do not find the 
least trace of it upon your consultations, until August 1768, nor 
do any of your letters to us afford any information relative to 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 141 

such transactions, till the 1st of November, 1768. By your last 
letters of the 8th of May, 1769, you bring the whole proceed- 
ings to light. in one view." 

As to the previous knowledge of the company, and its sanction 
to the debts, you see that this assertion of that knowledge is 
utterly unfounded. But did the directors approve of it, and 
ratify the transaction when it was known? The very reverse. 
On the same third of March, the directors declare, " upon an 
impartial examination of the whole conduct of our late governor 
and council of Fort George [Madras] and on the fullest con- 
sideration, that the said governor and council have, in notorious 
violation of the trust reposed in them, manifestly preferred the 
interest of private individuals to that of the company, in permitting 
the assignment of the revenues of .certain valuable districts, to 
a very large amount, from the nabob to individuals" — and then 
highly aggravating their crimes, they add : " We order and 
direct that you do examine, in the most impartial manner, all 
the above-mentioned transactions; and that you punish by 
suspension, degradation, dismission or otherwise, as to you shall 
seem meet, all and every such servant or servants of the 
company, who may by you be found guilty of any of the above 
offences." " We had (say the directors) the mortification to 
find that the servants of the company, who had been raised, 
supported, and owed their present opulence to the advantages 
gained in such service, have in this instance most unfaithfully 
betrayed their trust, abandoned the company's interest, and 
prostituted its influence to accomplish the purposes of individuals, 
whilst the interest of the company is almost wholly neglected, and 
payment to us rendered extremely precarious." Here then is 
the rock of approbation of the court of directors, on which the 
right honorable gentleman says this debt was founded. Any 
member, Mr. Speaker, who should come into the house, on my 
reading this sentence of condemnation of the court of directors 
against their unfaithful servants, might well imagine that he had 
heard a harsh, severe, unqualified invective against the present 
ministerial board of control. So exactly do the proceedings of 
the patrons of this abuse tally with those of the actors in it, 
that the expressions used in the condemnation of the one, may 
serve for the reprobation of the other, without the change of 
a word. 

To read you all the expressions of wrath and indignation 
fulminated in this dispatch against the meritorious creditors of 
the right honorable gentleman, who, according to him, have 
been so fully approved by the company, would be to read the 
whole. 

The right honorable gentleman, with an address pecuHar to 



142 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

himself, every now and then slides in the presidency of Ma- 
dras, as synonymous to the company. That the presidency 
did approve the debt, is certain. But the right honorable gen- 
tleman, as prudent in suppressing, as skilful in bringing for- 
ward his matter, has not chosen to tell you that the presidency 
were the very persons guilty of contracting this loan ; credit- 
ors themselves, and agents and trustees for all the other cred- 
itors. For this, the court of directors accuse them of breach 
of trust ; and for this, the right honorable gentleman considers 
them as perfectly good authority for those claims. It is plea- 
sant to hear a gentleman of the law quote the approbation of 
creditors as an authority for their own debt. 

How they came to contract the debt to themselves, how 
they came to act as agents for those whom they ought to have 
controlled, is for your inquiry. The policy of this debt was 
announced to the court of directors, by the very persons con- 
cerned in creating it. " Till very lately," (say the presidency) 
*' the nabob placed his dependence on the company. Now he 
has been taught by ill advisers, that an interest out of doors 
may stand him in good stead. He has been made to believe 
that his private creditors have power and interest to overrule the 
court of director s^ The nabob was not misinformed. The 
private creditors instantly qualified a vast number of votes ; 
and having made themselves masters of the court of proprie- 
tors, as well as extending a powerful cabal in other places as 
important, they so completely overturned the authority of the 
court of directors at home and abroad, that this poor baffled 
government was soon obliged to lower its tone. It was glad 
to be admitted into partnership with its own servants. The 
court of directors establishing the debt which they had repro- 
bated as a breach of trust, and which was planned for the sub- 
version of their authority, settled its payments on a par with 
those of the public ; and even so, were not able to obtain peace 
or even equality in their demands. All the consequences lay 
in a regular and irresistible train. By employing their inj3u- 
ence for the recovery of this debt^ their orders, issued in the 
same breath, against creating new debts, only animated the 
strong desires of their servants to this prohibited prohfic sport, 
and it soon produced a swarm of sons and daughters, not in 
the least degenerated from the virtue of their parents. 

From that moment, the authority of the court of directors 
expired in the Carnatic, and everywhere else. " Every man," 
says the presidency, "who opposes the government and its 
measures, finds an immediate countenance from the nabob; 
even our discarded officers, however unworthy, are received 
into the nabob's service." It was indeed a matter of no won- 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 143 

derful sagacity to determine whether the court of directors, 
with their miserable salaries to their servants, of four or five 
hundred pounds a year, or the distributor of millions, was most 
likely to be obeyed. It was an invention beyond the imagina- 
tion of all the speculatists of our speculating age, to see a 
government quietly settled in one and the same town, com- 
posed of two distinct members ; one to pay scantily for obe- 
dience, and the other to bribe high for rebellion and revolt. 

The next thing which recommends this particular debt to 
the right honorable gentleman is, it seems, the moderate inter- 
est of ten per ce?it It would be lost labor to observe on this 
assertion. The nabob, in a long apologetic letter for the trans- 
action between him and the body of the creditors, states the 
fact, as I shall state it to you. In the accumulation of this 
debt, the first interest paid, was from thirty to thirty-six per 
cent., it was then brought down to twenty-five ^er cent., at length 
it was reduced to twenty ; and there it found its rest. During 
the whole process, as often as any of these monstrous interests 
fell into an arrear (into which they were continually falling) the 
arrear, formed into a new capital, was added to the old, and 
the same interest of twenty per cent, accrued upon both. The 
company, having got some scent of the enormous usury which 
prevailed at Madras, thought it necessary to interfere, and to 
order all interests to be lowered to ten per cent. This order, 
which contained no exception, though it by no means pointed 
particularly to this class of debts, came like a thunderclap on 
the nabob. He considered his political credit as ruined ; but 
to find a remedy to this unexpected evil, he again added to 
the old principal twenty per cent, interest accruing for the last 
year. Thus a new fund was formed; and it was on that ac- 
cumulation of various principals, and interests heaped upon in- 
terests, not on the sum originally lent, as the right honorable 
gentleman would make you beheve, that ten per cent, was set- 
tled on the whole. 

' When you consider the enormity of the interest at which 
these debts were contracted, and the several interests added 
to the principal, I believe you will not think me too sceptical, 
if I should doubt, whether for this debt of 880,000/. the nabob 
ever saw 100,000/. in real money. The right honorable gen- 
tleman suspecting, with all his absolute dominion over fact, 
that he never will be able to defend even this venerable patri- 
archal job, though sanctified by its numerous issue, and hoary 
with prescriptive years, has recourse to recrimination, the last 
resource of guilt. He says that this loan of 1767 was pro- 
vided for in Mr. Fox's India bill ; and judging of others by 
his own nature and principles, he more than insinuates, that 



J 44 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

this provision was made, not from any sense of merit in the 
claim, but from partiality to general Smith, a proprietor, and 
an agent for that debt. If partiality could have had any vi^eight 
against justice and policy, w^ith the then ministers and their 
friends, general Smith had titles to it. But the right honorable 
gentleman knovi^s as well as I do, that general Smith was 
very far from looking on himself as partially treated in the 
arrangements of that time ; indeed what man dared to hope 
for private partiality in that sacred plan for rehef to nations? 

It is not necessary that the right honorable gentleman should 
sarcastically call that time to our recollection. Well do I re- 
member every circumstance of that memorable period. God 
forbid I should forget it. O illustrious disgrace! O victorious 
defeat ! may your memorial be fresh and new to the latest 
generations ! May the day of that generous conflict be stamped 
in characters never to be cancelled or worn out from the re- 
cords of time ! Let no man hear of us, who shall not hear that 
in a struggle against the intrigues of courts, and the perfidious 
levity of the multitude, we fell in the cause of honor, in the 
cause of our country, in the cause of human nature itself! 
But if fortune should be as powerful over fame, as she has 
been prevalent over virtue, at least our conscience is beyond 
her jurisdiction. My poor share in the support of that great 
measure, no man shall ravish from me. It shall be safely 
lodged in the sanctuary of my heart ; never, never to be torn 
from thence, but with those holds that grapple it to life. 

I say, I well remember that bill, and every one of its honest 
and its wise provisions. It is not true that this debt was ever 
protected or enforced, or any revenue whatsoever set apart for 
it. It was left in that bill just where it stood ; to be paid or not to 
be paid out of the nabob's private treasures, according to his 
own discretion. The company had actually given it their sanc- 
tion ; though always relying for its validity on the sole security 
of the faith of him, who, without their knowledge or consent, 
entered into the original obligation. It had no other sanctioil ; 
it ought to have had no other. So far was Mr. Fox's bill for 
providing funds for it, as this ministry have wickedly done 
for this, and for ten times worse transactions, out of the pub- 
lic estate, that an express clause immediately preceded, posi- 
tively forbidding any British subject from receiving assign- 
ments upon any part of the territorial revenue, on any pretence 
whatsoever. 

You recollect, Mr. Speaker, that the chancellor of the ex- 
chequer strongly professed to retain every part of Mr. Fox's 
bill, which was intended to prevent abuse ; but in his India bill, 
which (let me do justice) is as able and skilful a performance 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 145 

for its own purposes, as ever issued from the wit of man, pre- 
meditating this iniquity — hoc ipsum ut strueret Trojamque 
aperiret Achivis, expunged this essential clause, broke down the 
fence which was raised to cover the public property against 
the rapacity of his partisans, and thus levelling every obstruc- 
tion, he made a firm, broad highway for sin and death, for 
usury and oppression, to renew their ravages throughout the 
devoted revenues of the Carnatic. 

The tenor, the policy, and the consequences of this debt of 
1767, are, in the eyes of ministry, so excellent, that its merits 
are irresistible ; and it takes the lead to give credit and coun- 
tenance to all the rest. Along with this chosen body of heavy- 
armed infantry, and to support it, in the fine, the right honorable 
gentleman has stationed his corps of black cavalry. If there 
be any advantage between this debt and that of 1769, according 
to him the cavalry debt has it. It is not a subject of defence ; 
it is a theme of panegyric. Listen to the right honorable gen- 
tleman, and you will find it was contracted to save the country; 
to prevent mutiny in armies ; to introduce economy in reve- 
nues ; and for all these honorable purposes, it originated at the 
express desire, and by the representative authority, of the com- 
pany itself. 

First, let me say a word to the authority. This debt was 
contracted not by the authority of the company, not by its re- 
presentatives (as the right honorable gentleman has the unpar- 
alleled confidence to assert), but in the ever memorable period 
of 1777, by the usurped power of those who rebelliously, in 
conjunction with the nabob of Arcot, had overturned the lawful 
government of Madras. For that rebellion, this house unani- 
mously directed a public prosecution. The delinquents, after 
they had subverted government, in order to make themselves a 
party to support them in their power, are universally known to 
have dealt jobs about to the right and to the left, and to any 
who were willing to receive them. This usurpation, which the 
right honorable gentleman well knows, was brought about by 
and for the great mass of the sepretended debts, is the author- 
ity which is set up by him to represent the company ; to re- 
present that company which, from the first moment of their 
hearing of this corrupt and fraudulent transaction to this hour, 
have uniformly disowned and disavowed it. 

So much for the authority. As to the facts, partly true, and 
partly colorable, as they stand recorded, they are in substance 
these. — The nabob of Arcot, as soon as he had thrown off* the 
superiority of this country by means of these creditors, kept up 
a great army which he never paid. Of course, his soldiers 
were generally in a state of mutiny. The usurping council say 

T 13 



146 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

that they labored hard with their master the nabob, to persuade 
him to reduce these mutinous and useless troops. He consented; 
but as usual, pleaded inability to pay them their arrears. Here 
was a difficulty. The nabob had no money ; the company had 
no money; every public supply was empty. But there was 
one resource which no season has ever yet dried up in that 
chmate. The soucars were at hand ; that is, private English 
money-jobbers offered their assistance. Messieurs Taylor, 
Majendie and Call, proposed to advance the small sum of 
160,000/. to pay off the nabob's black cavalry, provided the 
company's authority was given for their loan. This was the 
great point of policy always aimed at, and pursued through a 
hundred devices, by the servants at Madras. The presidency, 
who themselves had no authority for the functions they pre- 
sumed to exercise, very readily gave the sanction of the company 
to those servants who knew that the company, whose sanction 
was demanded, had positively prohibited all such transactions. 

However, so far as the reality of the dealing goes, all is hith- 
erto fair and plausible ; and here the right honorable gentleman 
concludes, with commendable prudence, his account of. the 
business. But here it is I shall beg leave to commence my 
supplement : for the gentleman's discreet modesty has led him 
to cut the thread of the story somewhat abruptly. One of the 
most essential parties is quite forgotten. Why should the 
episode of the poor nabob be omitted? When that prince 
chooses it, nobody can tell his story better. Excuse me, if I 
apply again to my book, and give it you from the first hand ; 
from the nabob himself. 

" Mr. Stratton became acquainted with this, and got Mr. 
Taylor and others to lend me four lacs of pagodas towards 
discharging the arrears of pay of my troops. Upon this, I 
wrote a letter of thanks to Mr. Stratton ; and upon the faith of 
this money being paid immediately, I ordered many of my 
troops to be discharged by a certain day, and lessened the 
number of my servants. Mr. Taylor, &c. some time after ac- 
quainted me, that they had no ready money, but they would 
grant teeps payable in four months. This astonished me ; for 
I did not know what might happen, when the sepoys were dis- 
missed from my service. I begged of Mr. Taylor and the 
others to pay this sum to the officers of my regiments at the 
time they mentioned ; and desired the officers, at the same time, 
to pacify and persuade the men belonging to them, that their 
pay would be given to them at the end of four months ; and that 
till those arrears were discharged, their pay should be con 
tinned to them. Two years ai^e nearly expired since that time 
but Mr. Taylor has not yet entirely discharged the arrears of 






NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 147 

those troops, and I am obliged to continue their pay from that 
time till this. I hoped to have been able, by this expedient, to 
have lessened the number of my troops, and discharged the 
arrears due to them, considering the trifle of interest to Mr. 
Taylor, and the others, as no great matter ; but instead of this, 
/ am oppressed with the hurthen of pay due to those troops ; and 
the interest, which is going on to Mr. Taylor from the day the 
teeps loere granted to him.^' What I have read to you is an ex- 
tract of a letter from the nabob of the Carnatic to governor 
Rumbold, dated the 22d, and received the 24th of March, 1779. 

Suppose his highness not to be well broken in to things of this 
kind, it must indeed surprise so knov^n and established a bond- 
vender, as the nabob of Arcot, one who keeps himself the 
largest bond warehouse in the world, to find that he was now 
to receive in kind ; not to take money for his obhgations, but to 
give his bond in exchange for the bond of Messieurs Taylor, 
Majendie and Call, and to pay, besides, a good smart interest, 
legally 12 per cent, [in reality perhaps twenty, or twenty-four 
per cent.'] for this exchange of paper. But his troops were not 
to be so paid, or so disbanded. They wanted bread, and could 
not live by cutting and shuffling of bonds. The nabob still kept 
the troops in service, and was obUged to continue, as you have 
seen, the whole expense, to exonerate himself, from which he 
became indebted to the soucars. 

Had it stood here, the transaction would have been of the 
most audacious strain of fraud and usury, perhaps ever before 
discovered, whatever might have been practised and concealed. 
But the same authority (I mean the nabob's) brings before you 
something if possible more striking. He states, that for this 
their paper, he immediately handed over to these gentlemen 
something very different from paper; that. is, the receipt of a 
territorial revenue, of which it seems they continued as long in 
possession as the nabob himself continued in possession of any- 
thing. Their payments, therefore, not being to commence be- 
fore the end of four months, and not being completed in two 
years, it must be presumed (unless they proved the contrary) 
that their payments to the nabob were made out of the revenues 
they had received from his assignment. Thus, they conde- 
• scended to accumulate a debt of 160,000/. with an interest of 
12 per cent, in compensation for a lingering payment to the na- 
bob of 160,000/. of his own money. 

Still we have not the whole; about two years after the as- 
signment of those territorial revenues to these gentlemen, the 
nabob receives a remonstrance from his chief manager, in a 
principal province, of which this is the tenor: — "The entire 
revenue of those districts is by your highness's order set apart 



148 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

to discharge the tunkaws [assignments] granted to the Euro- 
peans. The gomastahs [agents] of Mr. Taylor, to Mr. De 
Fries, are there in order to collect those tunkaws ; and as they 
receive all the revenue that is collected, your highness's troops 
have seven or eight months^ pay due, which they cannot receive, 
and are thereby reduced to the greatest distress. In such times, 
it is highly necessary to provide for the sustenance of the 
troops, that they may be ready to exert themselves in the ser- 
vice of your highness." 

Here, Sir, you see how these causes and effects act upon 
one another. One body of troops mutinies for want of pay ; 
a debt is contracted to pay them ; and they still remain unpaid. 
A territory destined to pay other troops, is assigned for this 
debt ; and these other troops fall into the same state of indi- 
gence and mutiny with the first. Bond is paid by bond ; ar- 
rear is turned into new arrear ; usury engenders new usury ; 
mutiny suspended in one quarter, starts up in another ; until all 
the revenues and all the establishments are entangled into one 
inextricable knot of confusion, from which they are only dis- 
engaged by being entirely destroyed. In that state of confu- 
sion, in a very few months after the date of the memorial I 
have just read to you, things were found, when the nabob's 
troops, famished to feed EngUsh soucars, instead of defending 
the country, joined the invaders, and deserted in entire bodies 
to Hyder AH. 

The manner in which this transaction was carried on, shows 
that good examples are not easily forgot, especially by those 
who are bred in a great school. One of those splendid exam- 
ples, give me leave to mention at a somewhat more early pe- 
riod, because one fraud furnishes light to the discovery of an- 
other, and so on, until the whole secret of mysterious iniquity 
burst upon you in a blaze of detection. The paper I shall 
read you, is not on record. If you please, you may take it on 
my word. It is a letter written from one of undoubted inform- 
ation in Madras, to Sir John Clavering, describing the prac- 
tice that prevailed there, whilst the company's allies were 
under sale, during the time of governor Winch's adminis- 
tration. 

" One mode," says Clavering's correspondent, "of 

amassing money at the nabob's cost is curious. He is gene- 
rally in arrears to the company. Here the governor, being 
cash-keeper, is generally on good terms with the banker, who 
manages matters thus: The governor presses the nabob for 
the balance due from him; the nabob flies to his banker for 
relief; the banker engages to pay the money, and grants his 
notes accordingly, which he puts in the cash-book as ready 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 149 

money ; the nabob pays him an interest for it at two and three 
per cent per mensem, till the tunkaws he grants on the particu- 
mr districts for it are paid. Matters in the mean time are 
so managed, that there is no call for this money for the com- 
pany's service/till the tunkaws become due. By this means 
not a cash is advanced by the banker, though he receives a 
heavy interest from the nabob, which is divided as lawful 
spoil." 

Here, Mr. Speaker, you. have the whole art and mystery, 
the true freemason secret of the profession of soucaring ; by 
which a few innocent, inexperienced young Enghshmen, such 
as Mr. Paul Benfield, for instance, without property upon 
which any one would lend to themselves a single shilling, are 
enabled at once to take provinces in mortgage, to make princes 
their debtors, and to become creditors for millions. 

But it seems the right honorable gentleman's favorite soucar 
cavalry, have proved the payment before the Mayor's court 
at Madras! Have they so? Why then defraud our anxiety 
and their characters of that proof? Is it not enough that the 
charges which I have laid before you, have stood on record 
against these poor injured gentlemen for eight years? Is it 
not enough that they are in print by the orders of the East 
India company for five years ? After these gentlemen have 
borne all the odium of this publication, and all the indignation 
of the directors, with such unexampled equanimity, now that 
they are at length stimulated into feehng, are you to deny them 
their just relief? But will the right honorable gentleman be 
pleased to tell us, how they came not to give this satisfaction 
to the court of directors, their lawful masters, during all the 
eight years of this litigated claim ? Were they not bound, by 
every tie that can bind man, to give them this satisfaction ? 
This day, for the first time, we hear of the proofs. But when 
were these proofs oflfered ? In what cause ? Who were the 
parties? Who inspected? Who contested this belated ac- 
count ? Let us see something to oppose to the body of record 
which appears against them. The mayor's court ! the may- 
or's court ! Pleasant ! Does not the honorable gentleman 
know, that the first corps of creditors [the creditors of 1767] 
stated it as a sort of hardship to them, that they could not 
have justice at Madras, from the impossibility of their support- 
ing their claims in the mayor's court? Why? because, say 
they, the members of that court were themselves creditors, 
and therefore could not sit as judges. Are we ripe to say, 
that no creditor under similar circumstances was member of 
the court, when the payment which is the ground of this cav- 
alry debt was put in proof? Nay, are we not in a manner 

13* 



150 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

compelled to conclude, that the court was so constituted, when 
we know there is scarcely a man in Madras, who has not 
some participation in these transactions? It is a shame to 
hear such proofs mentioned, instead of the h©nest, vigorous 
scrutiny which the circumstances of such an 'affair so indis- 
pensably call for. 

But his majesty's ministers, indulgent enough to other scru- 
tinies, have not been satisfied with authorizing the payment of 
this demand without such inquiry as the act has prescribed ; 
but they have added the arrear of twelve fer cent, interest, 
from the year 1777 to the year 1784, to make a new capital, 
raising thereby 160 to 294,000/. Then they charge a new 
twelve 'per cent, on the whole from that period, for a transac- 
tion, in which it will be a miracle if a single penny will be 
ever found really advanced from the private stock of the pre- 
tended creditors. 

In this manner, and at such an interest, the ministers have 
thought proper to dispose of 294,000/. of the public revenues 
for what is called the cavalry loan. After dispatching this, the 
right honorable gentleman leads to battle his last grand divi- 
sion, the consolidated debt of 1777. But having exhausted all 
his panegyric on the two first, he has nothing at all to say in 
favor of the last. On the contrary, he admits that it was con- 
tracted in defiance of the company's orders, without even the 
pretended sanction of any pretended representatives. Nobody, 
indeed, has yet been found hardy enough to stand forth avow- 
edly in its defence. But it is little to the credit of the age, 
that what has not plausibility enough to find an advocate, has 
influence enough to obtain a protector. Could any man ex- 
pect to find that protector anywhere? But what must every 
man think, when he finds that protector in the chairman of the 
committee of secrecy, who had published to the house, and to 
the world, the facts that condemn these debts — the orders that 
forbid the incurring of them — the dreadful consequences which 
attended them. Even in his official letter, when he tramples 
on his parliamentary report, yet his general language is the 
same. Read the preface to this part of this ministerial ar- 
rangement, and you would imagine that this debt was to be 
crushed, with all the weight of indignation which could fall 
from a vigilant guardian of the public treasury, upon those 
who attempted to rob it. What must be felt by every man 
who has feeling, when, after such a thundering preamble of 
condemnation, this debt is ordered to be paid without any sort 
of inquiry into its authenticity? without a single step taken to 
settle even the amount of the demand ? without an attempt so 
much as to ascertain the real persons claiming a sum, which 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 151 

rises in the accounts from one million three hundred thousand 
pounds sterling to two millions four hundred thousand pounds 
principal money ? without an attempt made to ascertain the 
proprietors, of whom no Hst has ever yet been laid before the 
court of directors ; of proprietors, who are known to be in a 
collusive shuffle, by which they never appear to be the same 
in any two hsts, handed about for their own particular pur- 
poses ? 

My honorable friend who made you the motion, has suffi- 
ciently exposed the nature of this debt. He has stated to you 
that lis own agents in the year 1781, in the arrangement they 
proposed to make at Calcutta, were satisfied to have twenty-five 
per cent, at once struck off from the capital of a great part of 
this debt ; and prayed to have a provision made for this reduced 
principal, without any interest at all. This was an arrangement 
of their own, an arrangement made by those who best knew the 
true constitution of their own debt ; who knew how little favor 
it merited, and how little hopes they had to find any persons in 
authority abandoned enough to support it as it stood. 

But what corrupt men, in the fond imaginations of a sanguine 
avarice, had not the confidence to propose, they have found a 
chancellor of the exchequer in England hardy enough to under- 
take for them. He has cheered their drooping spirits. He has 
thanked the peculators for not despairing of their commonwealth. 
He has told them they were too modest. He has replaced the 
twenty-five per cent, which, in order to lighten themselves, they 
had abandoned in their conscious terror. Instead of cutting 
off the interest, as they had themselves consented to do, with 
the fourth of the capital, he has added the whole growth of 
four years' usury of twelve per cent, to the first overgrown 
principal; and has again grafted on this meliorated stock a 
perpetual annuity of six fer cent, to take place from the year 
1781. Let no man hereafter talk of the decaying energies of 
nature. All the acts and monuments in the records of pecula- 
tion ; the consohdated corruption of ages ; the patterns of 
exemplary plunder in the heroic times of Roman iniquity, 
never equalled the gigantic corruption of this single act. 
Never did Nero, in all the insolent prodigality of despotism, 
deal out to his pretorian guards a donation fit to be named with 
the largess showered down by the bounty of our chancellor of 
the exchequer on the faithful band of his Indian sepoys. 

The right honorable gentleman lets you freely and voluntarily 
into the whole transaction. So perfectly has his conduct con- 
founded his understanding, that he fairly tells you, that through 
the course of the whole business he has never conferred with any 
but the agents of the pretended creditors! After this, do you 



153 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

want more to establish a secret understanding with the parties ? 
to fix, beyond a doubt, their collusion and participation in a 
common fraud ? 

If this were not enough, he has furnished you with other 
presumptions that are not to be shaken. It is one of the known 
indications of guilt to stagger and prevaricate in a story ; and 
to vary in the motives that are assigned to conduct. Try 
these ministers by this rule. In their official dispatch, they tell 
the presidency of Madras, that they have established the debt 
for two reasons ; first, because the nabob (the party indebted) 
does not dispute it ; secondly, because it is mischievous to keep 
it longer afloat ; and that the payment of the European creditors 
will promote circulation in the country. These two motives 
(for the plainest reasons in the world) the right honorable gentle- 
man has this day thought fit totally to abandon. In tlie first 
place, he rejects the authority of the nabob of Arcot. It would 
indeed be pleasant, to see him adhere to this exploded testimony. 
He next, upon grounds equally solid, abandons the benefits of 
that circulation, which was to be produced by drawing out all 
the juices of the body. Laying aside, or forgetting, these 
pretences of his dispatch, he has just now assumed a principle 
totally different, but to the full as extraordinary. He proceeds 
upon a supposition, that many of the claims may be fictitious. 
He then finds, that in a case where many vahd and many fraud- 
ulent claims are blended together, the best course for their 
discrimination is indiscriminately to establish them all. He 
trusts (I suppose) as there may not be a fund sufficient for every 
description of creditors, that the best warranted claimants will 
exert themselves in bringing to light those debts which will not 
bear an inquiry. What he will not do himself, he is persuaded 
will be done by others ; and for this purpose he leaves to any 
person a general power of excepting to the debt. This total 
change of language, and prevarication in principle, is enough, 
if it stood alone, to fix the presumption of unfair dealing. His 
dispatch assigns motives of policy, concord, trade, and circu- 
lation. His speech proclaims discord and litigations ; and pro- 
poses, as the ultimate end, detection. 

But he may shift his reasons, and wind and turn as he will — 
confusion waits him at all his doubles. Who will undertake this 
detection? Will the nabob? But the right honorable gentleman 
has himself this moment told us, that no prince of the country 
can by any motive be prevailed upon to discover any fraud that 
is practised upon him by the company's servants. He says 
what (with the exception of the complaint against the cavalry 
loan) all the world knows to be true : and without that prince's 
concurrence, what evidence can be had of the fraud of any the 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 153 

smallest of these demands'? The ministers never authorized 
any person to enter into his exchequer, and to search his records. 
Why then this shameful and insulting mockery of a pretended 
contest ? Already contests for a preference have arisen among 
these rival bond creditors. Has not the company itself struggled 
for a preference for years, vi^ithout any attempt at detection of 
the nature of those debts v^^ith v^^hich they contended ? Well is 
the nabob of Arcot attended to, in the only specific complaint 
he has ever made. He complained of unfair dealing in the 
cavalry loan. It is fixed upon him with interest on interest ; 
and this loan is excepted from all power of ligitation. 

This day, and not before, the right honorable gentleman thinks 
that the general establishment of all claims is the surest way 
of laying open the fraud of some of them. In India this is a 
reach of deep policy. But what would be thought of this mode 
of acting on a demand upon the treasury in England ? Instead 
of all this cunning, is there not one plain way open, that is, to 
put the burthen of the proof on those who make the demand ? 
Ought not ministry to have said to the creditors: " The person 
who admits your debt stands excepted to as evidence ; he stands 
charged as a collusive party, to hand over the public revenues 
to you for sinister purposes 1 You say, you have a demand of 
some millions on the Indian treasury; prove that you have 
acted by lawful authority ; prove at least that your money has 
been bona fide advanced; entitle yourself to my protection, by 
the fairness and fullness of the communications you make." 
Did an honest creditor ever refuse that reasonable and honest 
test ? 

There is little doubt, that several individuals have been seduced 
by the purveyors to the nabob of Arcot to put their money 
(perhaps the whole of honest and laborious earnings) into their 
hands, and that at such high interest, as, being condemned at 
law, leaves them at the mercy of the great managers whom 
they trusted. These seduced creditors are probably persons of 
no power or interest, either in England or India, and may be 
just objects of compassion. By taking, in this arrangement, 
no measures for discrimination and discovery ; the fraudulent 
and the fair are in the first instance confounded in one mass. 
The subsequent selection and distribution is left to the nabob. 
With him the agents and instruments of his corruption, whom 
he sees to be omnipotent in England, and who may serve him 
in future, as they have done in times past, will have precedence, 
if not an exclusive preference. These leading interests domi- 
neer, and have always domineered, over the whole. By this 
arrangement, the persons seduced are made dependent on their 
seducers ; honesty (comparative honesty at least) must become 

U 



154 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

of the party of fraud, and must quit its proper character, and 
its just claims, to entitle itself to the alms of bribery and pecu- 
lation. 

But be these EngUsh creditors what they may, the creditors, 
most certainly not fraudulent, are the natives, who are numer- 
ous and wretched indeed ; by exhausting the whole revenues 
of the Carnatic, nothing is left for them. They lent bona fide; 
in all probabihty they were even forced to lend, or to give 
goods and service for the nabob's obligations. They had no 
trust to carry to his market. They had no faith of alliances to 
sell. They had no nations to betray to robbery and ruin. They 
had no lawful government seditiously to overturn ; nor had they 
a governor to whom it is owing that you exist in India, to de- 
liver over to captivity, and to death, in a shameful prison. 

These were the merits of the principal part of the debt of 
1777, and the universally conceived cause of its growth; and 
thus the unhappy natives are deprived of every hope of pay- 
ment for their real debts, to make provision for the arrears of 
unsatisfied bribery and treason. You see in this instance, that 
the presumption of guilt is not only no exception to the de- 
mands on the public treasury ; but with these ministers it is a 
necessary condition to their support. But that you may not 
think this preference solely owing to their known contempt of 
the natives, who ought, with every generous mind, to claim 
their first charities, you will find the same rule religiously ob- 
served with Europeans too. Attend, Sir, to this decisive case. 
Since the beginning of the war, besides arrears of every kind, 
a bond debt has been contracted at Madras, uncertain in its 
amount, but represented from four hundred thousand pounds to 
a million sterling. It stands only at the low interest of eight 
per cent. Of the legal authority on which this debt was con- 
tracted, of its purposes for the very 'being of the state, of its 
publicity and fairness, no doubt has been entertained for a mo- 
ment. For this debt, no sort of provision whatever has been 
made. It is rejected as an outcast, whilst the whole undissi- 
pated attention of the minister has been employed for the dis- 
charge of claims entitled to his favor by the merits we have 
seen. 

I have endeavored to find out, if possible, the amount of the 
whole of those demands, in order to see how much, supposing 
the country in a condition to furnish the fund, may remain to 
satisfy the public debt and the necessary establishments. But I 
have been foiled in my attempt. About one-fourth, that is, about 
220,000/. of the loan of 1767, remains unpaid. How much in- 
terest is in arrear, I could never discover ; seven or eight years 
at least, which would make the whole of that debt about 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 155 

396,000/. This stock, which the ministers in their instructions 
to the governor of Madras state as the least exceptionable, 
they have thought proper to distinguish by a marked severity, 
leaving it the only one, on which the interest is not added to 
the principal, to beget a new interest. 

The cavalry loan, by the operation of the same authority, 
is made up to 294,000/.; and this 294,000/., made up of prin- 
cipal and interest, is crowned with a new interest of twelve 
'per cent 

What the grand loan, the bribery loan of 1777, may be, is 
amongst the deepest mysteries of state. It is probably the 
first debt ever assuming the title of consolidation, that did not 
express what the amount of the sum consoHdated was. It is 
little less than a contradiction in terms. In the debt of the year 
1767, the sum was stated in the act of consoHdation, and made 
to amount to 880,000/., capital. When this consolidation 
of 1777 was first announced at the Durbar, it was repre- 
sented authentically at 2,400,000/. In that, or rather in a 
higher state. Sir Thomas Rumbold found and condemned it. It 
afterwards fell into such a terror, as to sweat away a million 
of its weight at once; and it sunk to 1,400,000/. However, it 
was never without a resource for recruiting it to its old plump- 
ness. There was a sort of floating debt of about 4 or 500,000/. 
more, ready to be added, as occasion should require. 

In short, when you pressed this sensitive plant, it always con- 
tracted its dimensions. When the rude hand of inquiry was 
withdrawn, it expanded in all the luxuriant vigor of its original 
vegetation. In the treaty of 1781, the whole of the nabob's 
debt to private Europeans, is, by Mr. Sullivan, agent to the 
nabob and the creditors, stated at 2,800,000/., which (if the 
cavalry loan, and the remains of the debt of 1767, be subtract- 
ed) leaves it at the^imount originally declared at the Durbar, 
in 1777. But then there is a private instruction to Mr. Sulli- 
van, w^hich it seems will reduce it again to the lower standard 
of 1,400,000/. Failing in all my attempts, by a direct account, 
to ascertain the extent of the capital claimed (where in all 
probability no capital was ever advanced) I endeavored, if pos- 
sible, to discover it by the interest which was to be paid. For 
that purpose, I looked to the several agreements for assigning 
the territories of the Carnatic to secure the principal and in- 
terest of this debt. In one of them I found in a sort of postscript, 
by way of an additional remark (not in the body of the obliga- 
tion) the debt represented at 1,400,000/. But when I computed 
the sums to be paid for interest by instalments, in another paper, 
I found they produced the interest of two millions, at twelve 
per cent.', and the assignment supposed, that if these instal- 



156 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

ments might exceed, they might also fall short of the real pro- 
vision for that interest. 

Another instalment bond was afterwards granted. In that 
bond the interest exactly tallies with a capital of 1,400,000/. 
But pursuing this capital through the correspondence, I lost 
sight of it again, and it was asserted that this instalment bond 
was considerably short of the interest that ought to be com- 
puted to the time mentioned. Here are, therefore, two state- 
ments of equal authority, differing at least a million from each 
other ; and as neither persons claiming, nor any special sum as 
belonging to each particular claimant, is ascertained in the 
instruments of consohdation, or in the instalment bonds, a large 
scope was left to throw in any sums for any persons, as their 
merits in advancing the interest of that loan might require ; a 
power was also left for reduction, in case a harder hand, or 
more scanty funds, might be found to require it. Stronger 
grounds for a presumption of fraud never appeared in any 
transaction. But the ministers, faithful to the plan of the in- 
terested persons, whom alone they thought fit to confer with on 
this occasion, have ordered the payment of the whole mass of 
these unknown unliquidated sums, without an attempt to ascer- 
tain them. On this conduct, Sir, I leave you to make your 
own reflections. 

It is impossible (at least I have found it impossible) to fix on 
the real amount of the pretended debts with which your minis- 
ters have thought proper to load the Carnatic. They are ob- 
scure ; they shun inquiry ; they are enormous. That is all you 
know of them. 

That you may judge what chance any honorable and useful 
end of government has for a provision that comes in for the 
leavings of these gluttonous demands, I must take it on myself 
to bring before you the real condition of that abused, insulted, 
racked, and ruined country, though in truth my mind revolts 
from it ; though you will hear it with horror ; and I confess I 
tremble when I think on these awful and confounding dispensa- 
tions of Providence. I shall first trouble you with a few words 
as to the cause 

The great fortunes made in India in the beginnings of con- 
quest, naturally excited an emulation in all the parts, and 
through the whole succession, of the company's service. But 
in the company it gave rise to other sentiments. They did not 
find the new channels of acquisition flow with equal riches to 
them. On the contrary, the high flood-tide of private emolu- 
ment was generally in the lowest ebb of their affairs. They 
began also to fear, that the fortune of war might take away 
what the fortune of war had given. Wars were accordingly 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 157 

discouraged by repeated injunctions and menaces ; and that 
the servants might not be bribed into them by the native 
princes, they were strictly forbidden to take any money what- 
soever from their hands. But vehement passion is ingenious in 
resources. The company's servants were not only stimulated, 
but better instructed by the prohibition. They soon fell upon a 
contrivance which answered their purposes far better than the 
methods which were forbidden ; though in this also they violated 
an ancient, but they thought, an abrogated order. They re- 
versed their proceedings. Instead of receiving presents, they 
made loans. Instead of carrying on wars in their own name, 
they contrived an authority, at once irresistible and irresponsi- 
ble, in whose name they might ravage at pleasure ; and being 
thus freed from all restraint, they indulged themselves in the 
most extraordinary speculations of plunder. The cabal of 
creditors who have been the object of the late bountiful grant 
from his majesty's ministers, in order to possess themselves, 
under the name of creditors and assignees, of every country 
in India, as fast as it should be conquered, inspired into the 
mind of the nabob of Arcot (then a dependant on the company 
of the humblest order) a scheme of the most wild and desperate 
ambition that I believe ever was admitted into the thoughts of 
a man so situated. First, they persuaded him to consider him- 
self as a principal member in the political system of Europe. 
In the next place they held out to him, and he readily imbibed 
the idea of the general empire of Indostan. As a prehminary 
to this undertaking, they prevailed on him to propose a tripar- 
tite division of that vast country. One part to the company ; 
another to the Marattas ; and the third to himself. To himself 
he reserved all the southern part of the great peninsula, com- 
prehended under the general name of the Decan. 

On this scheme of their servants, the company was to appear 
in the Carnatic in no other light than as contractor for the pro- 
vision of armies, and the hire of mercenaries for his use, and 
under his direction. This disposition was to be secured by the 
nabob's putting himself under the guarantee of France ; and 
by the means of that rival nation, preventing the English for 
ever from assuming an equality, much less a superiority in the 
Carnatic. In pursuance of this treasonable project (treasona- 
ble on the part of the EngHsh) they extinguished the company 
as a sovereign power in that part of India ; they withdrew the 
company's garrisons out of all the forts and strong-holds of 
the Carnatic ; they decHned to receive the ambassadors from 
foreign courts, and remitted them to the nabob of Arcot ; they 
fell upon, and totally destroyed the oldest ally of the company, 
the king of Tanjore, and plundered the country to the amount 

14 



^58 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

of near five millions sterling ; one after another, in the nabob's 
name, but with English force, they brought into a miserable 
servitude all the princes, and great independent nobility, of a 
vast country. In proportion to these treasons and violences, 
which ruined the people, the fund of the nabob's debt grew 
and flourished. 

Among the victims to this magnificent plan of universal 
plunder, worthy of the heroic avarice of the projectors, you 
have all heard (and he has made himself to be well remem- 
bered) of an Indian chief called Hyder Ali Khan. This man 
possessed the western, as the company under the name of the 
nabob of Arcot does the eastern division of the Carnatic. It was 
among the leading measures in the design of this cabal (accord- 
ing to their own emphatic language) to extirpate this Hyder 
Ali. They declared the nabob of Arcot to be his sovereign, 
and himself to be a rebel, and publicly invested their instrument 
with the sovereignty of the kingdom of Mysore. But their 
victim was not of the passive kind. They were soon obliged 
to conclude a treaty of peace and close alliance with this rebel, 
at the gates of Madras. Both before and since that treaty, 
every principle of policy pointed out this power as a natural 
alliance ; and on his part, it was courted by every sort of ami- 
cable office. But the cabinet-council of Enghsh creditors would 
not suffer their nabob of Arcot to sign the treaty, nor even to 
give to a prince, at least his equal, the ordinary titles of re- 
spect and courtesy. From that time forward, a continued plot 
was carried on within the divan, black and white, of the nabob 
of Arcot, for the destruction of Hyder AH. As to the out- 
ward members of the double, or rather treble government of 
Madras, which had signed the treaty, they were always pre- 
vented by some overruling influence (which they do not de- 
scribe, but which cannot be misunderstood) from performing 
what justice and interest combined so evidently to enforce. 

When at length Hyder Ali found that he had to do with men 
who either w^ould sign no convention, or whom no treaty and 
no signature could bind, and who were the determined enemies 
of human intercourse itself, he decreed to make the country 
possessed by these incorrigible and predestinated criminals a 
memorable example to mankind. He resolved, in the gloomy 
recesses of a mind capacious of such things, to leave the whole 
Carnatic an everlasting monument of vengeance ; and to put 
perpetual desolation as a barrier between him and those against 
whom the faith which holds the moral elements of the world 
together was no protection. He became at length so confident 
of his force, so collected in his might, that he made no secret 
whatsoever of his dreadful resolution. Having terminated his 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 159 

disputes with every enemy, and every rival, who buried their 
mutual animosities in their common detestation against the 
creditors of the nabob of Arcot, he drew from every quarter 
whatever a savage ferocity could add to his new rudiments in 
the arts of destruction ; and compounding all the materials of 
fury, havoc, and desolation, into one black cloud, he hung for 
awhile on the declivities of the mountains. Whilst the authors 
of all these evils w^ere idly and stupidly gazing on this men- 
acing meteor, which blackened all their horizon, it suddenly 
burst, and poured down the whole of its contents upon the 
plains of the Carnatic. — Then ensued a scene of woe, the like 
of which no eye had seen, no heart conceived, and which no 
tongue can adequately tell. All the horrors of war before 
known or heard of were mercy to that new havoc. A storm 
of universal fire blasted every field, consumed every house, 
destroyed every temple. The miserable inhabitants flying 
from their flaming villages, in part were slaughtered ; others, 
without regard to sex, to age, to the respect of rank, or sacred- 
ness of function; fathers torn from children, husbands from 
wives, enveloped in a whirlwind of cavalry, and amidst the 
goading spears of drivers, and the trampling of pursuing horses, 
were swept into captivity, in an unknown and hostile land. 
Those who were able to evade this tempest, fled to the walled 
cities. But escaping from fire, sword, and exile, they fell into 
the jaws of famine. 

The alms of the settlement, in this dreadful exigency, were 
certainly liberal; and all was done by charity that private 
charity could do : but it was a people in beggary ; it was a 
nation which stretched out its hands for food. For months 
together these creatures of sufferance, whose very excess and 
luxury in their most plenteous days had fallen short of the 
allowance of our austerest fasts, silent, patient, resigned, with- 
out sedition or disturbance, almost without complaint, perished 
by a hundred a day in the streets of Madras ; every day seventy 
at least laid their bodies in the streets, or on the glacis of Tan- 
jore, and expired of famine in the granary of India. I was 
going to awake your justice towards this unhappy part of our 
fellow-citizens, by bringing before you some of the circum- 
stances of this plague of hunger. Of all the calamities which 
beset and waylay the life of man, this comes the nearest to 
our heart, and is that wherein the proudest of us all feels him- 
self to be nothing more than he is : but I find myself unable to 
manage it with decorum : these details are of a species of hor- 
ror so nauseous and disgusting ; they are so degrading to the 
sufferers and to the hearers ; they are so humiliating to human 
nature itself, that, on better thoughts, I find it more advisable 



160 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

to throw a pall over this hideous object, and to leave it to your 
general conceptions. 

For eighteen months, without intermission, this destruction 
raged from the gates of Madras to the gates of Tanjore ; and 
so completely did these masters in their art, Hyder AH, and 
his more ferocious son, absolve themselves of their impious 
vow, that when the British armies traversed, as they did, the 
Carnatic for hundreds of miles in all directions, through the 
whole hne of their march, they did not see one man, not one 
woman, not one child, not one four-footed beast of any descrip- 
tion whatever. One dead uniform silence reigned over the 
whole region. With the inconsiderable exceptions of the nar- 
row vicinage of some few forts, I wish to be understood as 
speaking literally. I mean to produce to you more than three 
witnesses, above all exception, who will support this assertion 
in its full extent. That hurricane of war passed through every 
part of the central provinces of the Carnatic. Six or seven 
districts to the north and to the south (and these not wholly 
untouched) escaped the general ravage. 

The Carnatic is a country not much inferior in extent to 
England. Figure to yourself, Mr. Speaker, the land in whose 
representative chair you sit ; figure to yourself the form and 
fashion of your sweet and cheerful country from Thames to 
Trent, north and south, and from the Irish to the German sea 
east and west, emptied and embowelled (may God avert the 
omen of our crimes !) by so accomphshed a desolation. Ex- 
tend your imagination a little further, and then suppose your 
ministers taking a survey of this scene of waste and desola- 
tion ; what would be your thoughts, if you should be informed 
that they were computing how much had been the amount of 
the excises, how much the customs, how much the land and 
malt tax, in order that they should charge (take it in the most 
favorable light) for public service, upon the relics of the sa- 
tiated vengeance of relentless enemies, the whole of what Eng- 
land had yielded in the most exuberant seasons of peace and 
abundance ? What would you call it ? To call it tyranny, 
sublimed into madness, would be too faint an image ; yet this 
very madness is the principle upon which the ministers at 
your right hand have proceeded in their estimate of the reve- 
nues of the Carnatic, when they were providing not supply for 
the establishments of its protection, but rewards for the authors 
of its ruin. 

Every day you are fatigued and disgusted with this cant, 
" the Carnatic is a country that will soon recover, and become 
instantly as prosperous as ever." They think they are talking 
to innocents, who will believe that by sowing of dragons' teeth. 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 161 

men may come up ready grown and ready armed. They who 
will give themselves the trouble of considering (for it requires 
no great reach of thought, no very profound knowledge) the 
manner in which mankind are increased, and countries culti- 
vated, will regard all this raving as it ought to be regarded. 
In order that the people, after a long period of vexation and 
plunder, may be in a condition to maintain government, gov- 
ernment must begin by maintaining them. — Here the road to 
economy hes not through receipt, but through expense ; and 
in that country nature has given no short cut to your object. 
Men must propagate, like other animals, by the mouth. Never 
did oppression light the nuptial torch ; never did extortion and 
usury spread out the genial bed. Does any of you think that 
England, so wasted, would, under such a nursing attendance, 
so rapidly and cheaply recover ? But he is meanly acquainted 
with either England or India, who does not know that England 
would a thousand times sooner resume population, fer-tility, and 
what ought to be the ultimate secretion from both, revenue, 
than such a country as the Carnatic. 

The Carnatic is not by the bounty of nature a fertile soil. 
The general size of its cattle is proof enough that it is much 
otherwise. It is some days since I moved, that a curious 
and interesting map kept in the India House, should be laid 
before you. The India House is not yet in readiness to send 
it ; I have therefore brought down my own copy, and there 
it Hes for the use of any gentleman who may think such a 
matter worthy of his attention. It is, indeed, a noble map, 
and of noble things; but it is decisive against the golden 
dreams and sanguine speculations of avarice run mad. In 
addition to what you know must be the case in every part of 
the world (the necessity of a previous provision of habitation, 
seed, stock, capital) that map will show you, that the use of 
the influences of Heaven itself, are in that country a work of 
art. The Carnatic is refreshed by few or no living brooks or 
running streams, and it has rain only at a season ; but its pro- 
duct of rice exacts the use of water subject to perpetual com- 
mand. This is the national bank of the Carnatic, on which it 
must have a perpetual credit, or it perishes irretrievably. For 
that reason, in the happier times of India, a number almost 
incredible of reservoirs have been made in chosen places 
throughout the whole country ; they are formed for the greater 
part of mounds of earth and stones, with sluices of solid ma- 
sonry ; the whole constructed with admirable skill and labor, 
and maintained at a mighty charge. In the territory contained 
in that map alone, I have been at the trouble of reckoning the 
reservoirs, and they amount to upwards of eleven hundred, 

V 14* 



162 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

from the extent of two or three acres to five miles in circuit. 
From these reservoirs currents are occasionally draw^n over 
the fields, and these water-courses again call for a considera- 
ble expense to keep them properly secured and duly levelled. 
Taking the district in that map as a measure, there cannot be 
in the Carnatic and Tanjore fewer than ten thousand of these 
reservoirs of the larger and middling dimensions, to say nothing 
of those, for domestic services, and the use of religious purifi- 
cations. These are not the enterprises of your power, nor in 
a style of magnificence suited to the taste of your minister. 
These are the monuments of real kings, who were the fathers 
of their people; testators to a posterity which they embraced 
as their own. These are the grand sepulchres built by ambi- 
tion ; but by the ambition of an unsatiable benevolence, which, 
not contented with reigning in the dispensation of happiness 
during the contracted term of human life, had strained, with 
all the Teachings and graspings of a vivacious mind, to extend 
the dominion of their bounty beyond the limits of nature, and 
to perpetuate themselves through generations of generations, 
the guardians, the protectors, the nourishers of mankind. 

Long before the late invasion, the persons who are objects 
of the grant of public money now before you, had so diverted 
the supply of the pious funds of culture and population, that 
everywhere the reservoirs were fallen into a miserable decay. 
But after those domestic enemies had provoked the entry of a 
cruel foreign foe into the country, he did not leave it until his 
revenge had completed the destruction begun by their avarice. 
Few, very few indeed, of these magazines of water that are 
not either totally destroyed, or cut through with such gaps, as 
to require a serious attention and much cost to re-establish 
them, as the means of present subsistence to the people, and of 
future revenue to the state. 

What, Sir, would a virtuous and enlightened ministry do, on 
the view of the ruins of such works before them ? On the view 
of such a chasm of desolation as that which yawned in the 
midst of those countries to the north and south, which still bore 
some vestiges of cultivation? They would have reduced all 
their most necessary establishments ; they would have suspend- 
ed the justest payments; they would have employed every 
shilling derived from the producing to reanimate the powers of 
the unproductive parts. While they were performing this 
fundamental duty, whilst they were celebrating these mysteries 
of justice and humanity, they would have told the corps of fic- 
titious creditors, whose crimes were their claims, that they 
must keep an awful distance ; that they must silence their in- 
auspicious tongues ; that they must hold off* their profane and 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 163 

unhallowed paws from this holy work ; they would have pro- 
claimed with a voice -that should make itself heard, that on 
every country the first creditor is the plough ; that this original, 
indefeasible claim supersedes every other demand. 

This is what a wise and virtuous ministry would have done 
and said. This, therefore, is w^hat our minister could never 
think of saying or doing. A ministry of another kind would 
have first improved the country, and have thus laid a solid 
foundation for future opulence and future force. But on this 
grand point of the restoration of the country, there is not one 
syllable to be found in the correspondence of our ministers, 
from the first to the last. They felt nothing for a land desolated 
by fire, sword, and famine ; their sympathies took another di- 
rection. They were touched with pity for bribery, so long tor- 
mented with a fruitless itching of its palms; their bowels 
yearned for usury, that had long missed the harvest of its re- 
turning months ; they felt for peculation, which had been for 
so many years raking in the dust of an empty treasury ; they 
were melted into compassion for rapine and oppression, Ucking 
their dry, parched, unbloody jaws. These were the objects of 
their solicitude. These were the necessities for which they 
were studious to provide. 

But I, Sir, who profess to speak to your understanding and 
to your conscience, and to brush away from this business all 
false colors, all false appellations, as well as false facts, do pos- 
itively deny that the Carnatic owes a shilling to the company, 
whatever the company may be indebted to that undone coun- 
try. It owes nothing to the company for this plain and simple 
reason — The territory charged with the debt is their own. To 
say that their revenues fall short, and ow^e them money, is to 
say they are in debt to themselves, which is only talking non- 
sense. The fact is, that by the invasion of an enemy, and the 
ruin of the country, the company, either in its own name or in 
the names of the nabob of Arcot, and rajah of Tanjore, has 
lost for several years what it might have looked to receive from 
its own estate. If men were allowed to credit themselves upon 
such principles, any one might soon grow rich by this mode of 
accounting. A flood comes down upon a man's estate in the 
Bedford Level of a thousand pounds a year, and drowns his 
rents for ten years. The chancellor would put that man into 
the hands of a trustee, who would gravely make up his books, 
and for this loss credit himself in his account for a debt due to 
him of 10,000/. It is, however, on this principle the company 
makes up its demands on the Carnatic. In peace they go the 
full length, and indeed more th^n the full length, of what the 
people can bear for current estabhshments ; then they are ab- 



164 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

surd enough to Consolidate all the calamities of war into debts ; 
to metamorphose the devastations of the country into demands 
upon its future production. What is this but to avow a resolu- 
tion utterly to destroy their own country, and to force the peo- 
ple to pay for their sufferings, to a government which has 
proved unable to protect either the share of the husbandman, 
or their own ? In every lease of a farm, the invasion of an 
enemy, instead of forming a demand for arrear, is a release of 
rent ; nor for that release is it at all necessary to show, that 
the invasion has left nothings to the occupier of the soil ; though 
in the present case it would be too easy to prove that melan- 
choly fact. I therefore applaud my right honorable friend, who, 
when he canvassed the company's accounts, as a preliminary 
to a bill that ought not to stand on falsehood of any kind, fixed 
his discerning eye, and his deciding hand, on these debts of 
the company, from the nabob of Arcot and rajah of Tanjore, 
and at one stroke expunged them all, as utterly irrecoverable ; 
he might have added, as utterly unfounded. 

On these grounds I do not blame the arrangement this day 
in question, as a preference given to the debt of individuals 
over the company's debt. In my eye it is no more than the 
preference of a fiction over a chimera ; but I blame the prefer- 
ence given to those fictitious private debts over the standing 
defence and the standing government. It is there the public is 
robbed. It is robbed in its army ; it is robbed in its civil ad- 
ministration ; it is robbed in its credit ; it is robbed in its invest- 
ment which forms the commercial connexion between that 
country and Europe. There is the robbery. 

But my principal objection lies a- good deal deeper. That 
debt to the company is the pretext under which all the other 
debts lurk and cover themselves. That debt forms the foul, 
putrid mucus, in which are engendered the whole brood of 
creeping ascarides, all the endless involutions, the eternal knot, 
added to a knot of those inexpugnable tape-worms which de- 
vour the nutriment, and eat up the bowels of India. It is neces- 
sary. Sir, you should recollect two things : first, that the 
nabob's debt to the company carries no interest. In the next 
place you will observe, that whenever the company has occa- 
sion to borrow, she has always commanded whatever she 
thought fit at eight per cent. Carrying in your mind these two 
facts, attend to the process with regard to the public and pri- 
vate debt, and with what little appearance of decency they 
play into each other's hands a game of utter perdition to the 
unhappy natives of India. The nabob falls into an arrear to 
the company. The presidency presses for payment. The na- 
bob's answer is, I have no money. Good. But there are soucars 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 165 

who will supply you on the mortgage of your territories. Then 
steps forward some Paul Benfield, and from his grateful com- 
passion to the nabob, and his filial regard to the company, he 
unlocks the treasures of his virtuous industry ; and for a con- 
sideration of twenty-four or thirty-six per cent on a mortgage 
of the territorial revenue, becomes security to the company for 
the nabob's arrear. 

All this intermediate usury thus becomes sanctified by the 
ultimate view to the company's payment. In this case, would 
not a plain man ask this plain question of the company ; if you 
know that the nabob must annually mortgage his territories to 
your servants to pay his annual arrear to you, why is not the 
assignment or mortgage made directly to the company itself? 
By this simple, obvious operation, the company would be re- 
lieved and the debt paid, without the charge of a shilling 
interest to that prince. But if that course should be thought too 
indulgent, why do they not take that assignment with such 
interest to themselves as they pay to others, that is eight per 
cent. ? Or if it were thought more advisable (why it should I 
know not) that he must borrow, why do not the company lend 
their own credit to the nabob for their own payment? That 
credit would not be weakened by the collateral security of his 
territorial mortgage. The money might still be had at eight 
per cent. Instead of any of these honest and obvious methods, 
the company has for years kept up a show of disinterestedness 
and moderation, by suffering a debt to accumulate to them 
from the country powers without any interest at all ; and at the 
same time have seen before their eyes, on a pretext of borrow- 
ing to pay that debt, the revenues of the country charged with 
a usury of twenty, twenty-four, thirty-six, and even eight-and- 
forty per cent, with compound interest, for the benefit of their 
servants. All this time they know that by having a debt sub- 
sisting without any interest, which is to be paid by contracting 
a debt on the highest interest, they manifestly render it neces- 
sary to the nabob of Arcot to give the private demand a prefer- 
ence to the public; and by binding him and their servants 
together in a common cause, they enable him to form a party 
to the utter ruin of their own authority, and their own affairs. 
Thus their false moderation, and their affected purity, by the 
natural operation of everything false, and everything affected, 
becomes pander and pawd to the unbridled debauchery and 
licentious lewdness of usury and extortion. 

In consequence of this double game, all the territorial 
revenues have, at one time or other, been covered by those 
locusts, the English soucars. Not one single foot of the Car- 
natic has escaped them; a territory as large as England. 



166 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

During these operations, what a scene has that country pre- 
sented! The usurious European assignee supersedes the 
nabob's native farmer of the revenue ; the farmer flies to the 
nabob's presence to claim his bargain ; whilst his servants mur- 
mur for wages, and his soldiers mutiny for pay. The mortgage 
to the European assignee is then resumed, and the native farmer 
replaced ; replaced, again to be removed on the new clamor of 
the European assignee. Every man of rank and landed fortune 
being long since extinguished, the remaining miserable last cul- 
tivator, who grows to the soil, after having his back scored by 
the farmer, has it again flayed by the whip of the assignee, and 
is thus, by a ravenous because a short-lived succession of claim- 
ants, lashed from oppressor to oppressor, whilst a single drop 
of blood is left as the means of extorting a single grain of corn. 
Do not think I paint. Far, very far from it ; I do not reach 
the fact, nor approach to it. Men of respectable condition, men 
equal to your substantial English yeomen, are daily tied up and 
scourged to answer the muhiplied demands of various contend- 
ing and contradictory titles, all issuing from one and the same 
source. Tyrannous exaction brings on servile concealment; 
and that again calls forth tyrannous coercion. They move in 
a circle, mutually producing and produced; till at length 
nothing of humanity is left in the government, no trace of in- 
tegrity, spirit, or manliness in the people, who drag out a pre- 
carious and degraded existence under this system of outrage 
upon human nature. Such is the effect of the estabhshment of 
a debt to the company, as it has hitherto been managed, and as , 
it ever will remain, until ideas are adopted totally different from i 
those which prevail at this time. 

Your worthy ministers, supporting what they are obliged to 
condemn, have thought fit to renew the company's old order 
against contracting private debts in future. They begin by 
rewarding the violation of the ancient law; and then they 
gravely re-enact provisions, of which they have given bounties 
for the breach. This inconsistency has been well exposed. 
But what will you say to their having gone the length of giving 
positive directions for contracting the debt which they posi- 
tively forbid ? 

I will explain myself. They order the nabob, out of the 
revenues of the Carnatic, to allot four hundred and eighty 
thousand pounds a year, as a fund for the debts before us. For 
the punctual payment of this annuity, they order him to give 
soucar security. When a soucar, that is a money-dealer, be- 
comes security for any native prince, the course is, for the na- 
tive prince to counter-secure the money-dealer, by making over 
to him in mortgage a portion of his territory, equal to the sum 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 167 

annually to be paid, with an interest of at least twenty-four per 
cent The point fit for the house to know is, who are these 
soucars, to whom this security on the revenues in favor of the 
nabob's creditors is to be given? The majority of the house, 
unaccustomed to these transactions, will hear with astonish- 
ment that these soucars are no other than the creditors them- 
selves. The minister, not content with authorizing these 
transactions in a manner and to an extent unhoped for by the 
rapacious expectations of usury itself, loads the broken back of 
the Indian revenues, in favor of his worthy friends the soucars, 
with an additional twenty-four per cent for being security to 
themselves for their own claims ; for condescending to take the 
country in mortgage, to pay to themselves the fruits of their 
extortions. 

The interest to be paid for this security, according to the 
most moderate strain of soucar demand, comes to one hundred 
and eighteen thousand pounds a year, which added to the 
480,000/. on which it is to accrue, will fnake the whole charge 
on account of these debts on the Carnatic revenues amount to 
598,000/. a year, as much as even a long peace will enable 
those revenues to produce. Can any one reflect for a moment 
on all those claims of debt, which the minister exhausts himself 
in contrivances to augment with new usuries, without lifting up 
his hands and eyes in astonishment of the impudence, both of 
the claim and of the adjudication? Services of some kind or 
other these servants of the company must have done, so great 
and eminent, that the chancellor of the exchequer cannot think 
that all they have brought home is half enough. He halloos 
after them : " Gentlemen, you have forgot a large packet behind 
you, in your hurry ; you have not sufficiently recovered your- 
selves ; you ought to have, and you shall have interest upon 
interest, upon a prohibited debt that is made up of interest upon 
interest. Even this is too little. I have thought of another 
character for you, by which you may add something to your 
gains ; you shall be security to yourselves ; and hence will arise 
a new usury, which shall efface the memory of all the usuries 
suggested to you by your own dull inventions." 

I have done with the arrangement relative to the Carnatic. 
After this it is to little purpose to observe on what the ministers 
have done to Tanjore. Your ministers have not observed even 
form and ceremony in their outrageous and insulting robbery 
of that country, whose only crime has been, its early and 
constant adherence to the power of this, and the suffering of a 
uniform pillage in consequence of it. The debt of the company 
from the rajah of Tanjore, is just of the same stuff" with that 
of the nabob of Arcot. 



168 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

The subsidy from Tanjore, oq the arrear of which this pre- 
tended debt (if any there be) has accrued to the company, is 
not, Hke that paid by the nabob of Arcot, a compensation for 
vast countries obtained, augmented, and preserved for him ; not 
the price of pillaged treasuries, ransacked houses, and plundered 
territories. — It is a large grant, from a small kingdom, not 
obtained by our arms ; robbed, not protected by our power ; a 
grant for which no equivalent was ever given, or pretended to 
be given. The right honorable gentleman, however, bears 
witness in his reports to the punctuality of the payments of this 
grant of bounty, or, if you please, of fear. It amounts to one 
hundred and sixty thousand pounds sterling net annual subsidy. 
He bears witness to a further grant of a town and port, with 
an annexed district of thirty thousand pounds a year, surrendered 
to the company since the first donation. He has not borne wit- 
ness, but the fact is (he will not deny it) that in the midst of 
war, and during the ruin and desolation of a considerable part of 
his territories, this princ'b made many very large payments. Not- 
withstanding these merits and services, the first regulation of 
ministry is to force from him a territory of an extent which 
they have not yet thought proper to ascertain, for a military 
peace establishment, the particulars of which they have not 
yet been pleased to settle. 

The next part of their arrangement is with regard to war. 
As confessedly this prince had no share in stirring up any of 
the former wars, so all future wars are completely out of his 
power ; for he has no troops whatever, and is under a stipula- 
tion not so much as to correspond with any foreign state, except 
through the company. Yet in case the company's servants 
should be again involved in war, or should think proper again 
to provoke any enemy, as in times past they have wantonly 
provoked all India, he is to be subjected to a new penalty. To 
what penalty ? — Why, to no less than the confiscation of all his 
revenues. But this is to end with the war, and they are to be 
faithfully returned ? — Oh ! no ; nothing like it. The country is 
to remain under confiscation until all the debt which the com- 
pany shall think fit to incur in such war shall be discharged ; 
that is to say, for ever. His sole comfort is to find his old 
enemy, the nabob of Arcot, placed in the very same condition. 

The revenues of that niiserable country were, before the 
invasion of Hyder, reduced to a gross annual receipt of three 
hundred and sixty thousand pounds. From this receipt the 
subsidy I have just stated is taken. This again, by payments 
in advance, by extorting deposits of additional sums to a vast 
amount for the benefit of their soucars, and by an endless variety 
of other extortions, pubUc and private, is loaded with a debt. 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 169 

the amount of which I never could ascertain, but which is large 
undoubtedly, generating a usury the most completely ruinous 
that probably was ever heard of; that is, forty-eight per cent, 
payable monthly, with compound interest. 

Such is the state to which the company's servants have 
reduced that country. Now come the reformers, restorers, and 
comforters of India. What have they done ? In addition to all 
these tyrannous exactions with all these ruinous debts in their 
train, looking to one side of an agreement whilst they wilfully 
shut their eyes to the other, they withdraw from Tanjore all 
the benefits of the treaty of 1762, and they subject that nation 
to a perpetual tribute of forty thousand a year to the nabob 
of Arcot; a tribute never due, or pretended to be due to him, 
even when he appeared to be something ; a tribute, as things 
now stand, not to a real potentate, but to a shadow, a dream, 
an incubus of oppression. After the company has accepted in 
subsidy, in grant of territory, in remission of rent, as a com- 
pensation for-their own protection, at least two hundred thousand 
pounds a year, without discounting a shilling for that receipt, the 
ministers condemn this harassed nation to be tributary to a 
person who is himself, by their own arrangement, deprived of 
the right of war or peace ; deprived of the power of the sword ; 
forbid to keep up a single regiment of soldiers ; and is therefore 
wholly disabled from all protection of the country, which is the 
object of the pretended tribute. Tribute hangs on the sword. 
It is an incident inseparable from real sovereign power. In the 
present case to suppose its existence, is as absurd as it is cruel 
and oppressive. And here, Mr. Speaker, you have a clear 
exemplification of the use of those false names, and false colors, 
which the gentlemen who have lately taken possession of India 
choose to lay on for the purpose of disguising their plan of 
oppression. The nabob of Arcot, and rajah of Tanjore, have, 
in truth and substance, no more than a merely civil authority, 
held in the most entire dependence on the company. The 
nabob, without military, without federal capacity, is extinguished 
as a potentate; but then he is carefully kept alive as an inde- 
pendent and sovereign power, for the purpose of rapine and 
extortion; for the purpose of perpetuating the old intrigues, 
animosities, usuries, and corruptions. 

It was not enough that this mockery of tribute was to be 
continued without the correspondent protection, or any of the 
stipulated equivalents, but ten years of arrear, to the amount 
of 400,000/. sterling, is added to all the debts to the company, 
and to individuals, in order to create a new debt, to be paid (if 
at all possible to be paid in whole or in part) only by new 
usuries; and all this for the nabob of Arcot, or rather for Mr. 

V/ 15 



170 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

Benfield, and the corps of the nabob's creditors, and their 
soucars. Thus these miserable Indian princes are continued in 
their seats, for no other purpose than to render them in the first 
instance objects of ev^ery species of extortion ; and in the second, 
to force them to become, for the sake of a momentary shadow 
of reduced authority, a sort of subordinate tyrants, the ruin and 
calamity, not the fathers and cherishers of their people. 

But take this tribute only as a mere charge (without title, . 
cause, or equivalent) on this people ; what one step has been | 
taken to furnish grounds for a just calculation and estimate of * 
the proportion of the burthen and the ability ? None ; not an 
attempt at it. They do not adapt the burthen to the strength ; 
but they estimate the, strength of the bearers by the burthen 
they impose. Then what care is taken to leave a fund sufficient 
to the future reproduction of the revenues that are to bear all 
these loads ? Every one, but tolerably conversant in Indian 
affairs, must know that the existence of this little kingdom 
depends on its control over the river Cavery. The benefits of 
heaven to any community, ought never to be connected with 
political arrangements, or made to depend on the personal 
conduct of princes ; in which the mistake, or error, or neglect, 
or distress, or passion of a moment on either side, may bring 
famine on milHons, and ruin an innocent nation perhaps for ages. 
The means of the subsistence of mankind should be as immu- 
table as the laws of nature, let power and dominion take what 
course they may. — Observe what has been done with regard 
to this important concern. The use of this river is indeed at 
length given to the rajah, and a power provided for its enjoy- 
ment at his own charge ; but the means of furnishing that charge 
(and a mighty one it is) are wholly cut off. This use of the 
water, which ought to have no more connexion than clouds, 
and rains, and sunshine, with the politics of the rajah, the nabob, 
or the company, is expressly contrived as a means of enforcing 
demands and arrears of tribute. This horrid and unnatural 
instrument of extortion had been a distinguishing feature in the 
enormities of the Carnatic politics that loudly called for reform- 
ation. But the food of a whole people is by the reformers 
of India conditioned on payments from its prince, at a moment 
that he is overpowered with a swarm of their demands, with- 
out regard to the ability of either prince or people. In fine, by 
opening an avenue to the irruption of the nabob of Arcot's 
creditors and soucars, whom every man who did not fall in love 
with oppression and corruption on an experience of the calami- 
ties they produced, would have raised wall before wall, and 
mound before mound, to keep from a possibility of entrance, a 
more destructive enemy than Hyder Ali is introduced into that 



i 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 171 

kingdom. By this part of their arrangement in which they 
establish a debt to the nabob of Arcot, in effect and substance, 
they dehver over Tanjore, bound hand and foot, to Paul Ben- 
field, the old betrayer, insulter, oppressor, and scourge of a 
country, which has for years been an object of an unremitted, 
but unJiappily an unequal struggle, between the bounties of 
Providence to renovate, and the wickedness of mankind to 
destroy. 

The right honorable gentleman talks of his fairness in deter- 
mining the territorial dispute between the nabob of Arcot and 
the prince of that country, when he superseded the determina- 
tion of the directors, in whom the law had vested the decision 
of that controversy. He is in this just as feeble as he is in 
every other part. But it is not necessary to say a word in 
refutation of any part of his argument. The mode of the pro- 
ceeding sufficiently speaks the spirit of it. It is enough to fix 
his character as a judge, that he never heard the directors in de- 
fence of their adjudication, nor either of the parties in support of 
their respective claims. It is sufficient far me, that he takes from 
the rajah of Tanjore by this pretended adjudication, or rather 
from his unhappy subjects, 40,000/. a year of his and their 
revenue, and leaves upon his and their shoulders all the charges 
that can be made on the part of the nabob, on the part of his 
creditors, and on the part of the company, without so much as 
hearing him as to right or ability. But what principally in- 
duces me to leave the affair of the territorial dispute between 
the nabob and the rajah to another day, is this, that both the 
parties being stripped of their all, it little signifies under which 
of their names the unhappy undone people are delivered over 
to the merciless soucars, the allies of that right honorable 
gentleman, and the chancellor of the exchequer. In them ends 
the account of this long dispute of the nabob of Arcot, and the 
rajah of Tanjore. 

The right honorable gentleman is of opinion, that his judg- 
ment in this case can be censured by none but those who seem 
to act as if they were paid agents to one of the parties. What 
does he think of his court of directors ? If they are paid by 
either of the parties, by which of them does he think they are 
paid ? He knows that their decision has been directly contrary 
to his. Shall I believe that it does not enter into his heart to 
conceive, that any person can steadily and actively interest 
himself in the protection of the injured and oppressed, without 
being well paid for his service ? I have taken notice of this 
sort of discourse some days ago, so far as it may be supposed 
to relate to me. I then contented myself, as I shall now do, 
with giving it a cold, though a very direct contradiction. Thus 



172 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

much I do from respect to truth. If I did more, it might be 
supposed, by my anxiety to clear myself, that I had imbibed 
the ideas, which, for obvious reasons, the right honorable gentle- 
man wishes to have received concerning all attempts to plead 
the cause of the natives of India, as if it were a disreputable 
employment. If he had not forgot, in his present occupation, 
every principle which ought to have guided him, and I hope 
did guide him, in his late profession, he would have known, that 
he who takes a fee for pleading the cause of distress against 
power, and manfully performs the duty he has assumed, re- 
ceives an honorable recompense for a virtuous service. But 
if the right honorable gentleman will have no regard to fact in 
his insinuations, or to reason in his opinions, I wish him at 
least to consider, that if taking an earnest part with regard to 
the oppressions exercised in India, and with regard to this most 
oppressive case of Tanjore in particular, can ground a pre- 
sumption of interested motives, he is himself the most mercena- 
ry man I know. His conduct, indeed, is such that he is on all 
occasions the standing testimony against himself. He it was 
that first called to that case the attention of the house: the 
reports of his own committee are ample and affecting upon 
that subject ; and as many of us as have escaped his massacre, 
must remember the very pathetic picture he made of the suf- 
ferings of the Tanjore country, on the day when he moved the 
unwieldy code of his Indian resolutions. Has he not stated 
over and over again in his reports, the ill treatment of the rajah 
of Tanjore (a branch of the royal house of the Marattas, every 
injury to whom the Marattas felt as offered to themselves) as 
a main cause of the alienation of that people from the British 
power ? And does he now think, that to betray his principles, 
to contradict his declarations, and to become himself an active 
instrument in those oppressions which he had so tragically 
lamented, is the way to clear himself of having been actuated 
by a pecuniary interest, at the time when he chose to appear 
full of tenderness to that ruined nation ? 

The right honorable gentleman is fond of parading on the 
motives of others, and on his own. As to himself, he despises 
the imputations of those who suppose that anything corrupt 
could influence him in this his unexampled liberality of the 
public treasure. I do not know that I am obliged to speak to 
the motives of rninistry, in the arrangements they have made 
of the pretended debts of Arcot and Tanjore. If I prove 
fraud and collusion with regard to public money on those right 
honorable gentlemen, I am not obliged to assign their motives ; 
because no good motives can be pleaded in favor of their con- 
duct. Upon that case I stand; we are at issue ; and I desire to 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 173 

go to trial. This, I am sure, is not loose railing, or mean in- 
sinuation, according to their low and degenerate fashion, when 
they make attacks on the measures of their adversaries. It is 
a regular and juridical course ; and, unless I choose it, nothing 
can compel me to go further. 

But since these unhappy gentlemen have dared to hold a 
lofty tone about their motives, and affect to despise suspicion, 
instead of being careful not to give cause for it, I shall beg 
leave to lay before you some general observations on what I 
conceive was their duty in so delicate a business. 

If I were worthy to suggest any line of prudence to that 
right honorable gentleman, I would tell him, that the way to 
avoid suspicion in the settlement of pecuniary transactions, in 
which great frauds have been very strongly presumed, is, to 
attend to these few plain principles : — First, to hear all parties 
equally, and not the managers for the suspected claimants only. 
— Not to proceed in the dark ; but to act with as much publicity 
as possible.— Not to precipitate decision.— To be religious in 
following the rules prescribed in the commission under which 
we act. And, lastly, and above all, not to be fond of straining 
constructions, to force a jurisdiction, and to draw to ourselves 
the management of a trust in its nature invidious and obnoxious 
to suspicion, where the plainest letter of the law^ does not com- 
pel it. If these few plain rules are observed, no corruption ought 
to be suspected; if any of them are violated, suspicion will attach 
in proportion. If all of them are violated, a corrupt motive 
of some kind or other will not only be suspected, but must be 
violently presumed. 

The persons in whose favor all these rules have been vio- 
lated, and the conduct of ministers towards them, will natu- 
rally call for your consideration, and will serve to lead you 
through a series and combination of facts and characters, if 1 
do not mistake, into the very inmost recesses of this myste- 
rious business. You will then be in possession of all the ma- 
terials on which the principles of sound jurisprudence will 
found, or will reject the presumption of corrupt motives; or 
if such motives are indicated, will point out to you of what 
particular nature the corruption is. 

Our wonderful minister, as you all know, formed a new plan, 
a plan insigne recens alio indictum ore, a plan for supporting 
the freedom of our constitution by court intrigues, and for re- 
moving its corruptions by Indian dehnquency. To carry that 
bold paradoxical design into execution, sufficient funds and apt 
instruments became necessary. You are perfectly sensible 
that a parhamentary reform occupies his thoughts day and 
night, as an essential member of this extraordinary project. 

15* 



174 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON TliE 

In his anxious researches upon this subject, natural instinct, as 
well as sound policy, would direct his eyes, and settle his 
choice on Paul Benfield. Paul Benfield is the grand parlia- 
mentary reformer, the reformer to whom the whole choir of 
reformers bow, and to whom even the right honorable gentle- 
man himself must yield the palm : for what region in the em- 
pire, what city, what borough, what county, what tribunal, 
in this kingdom, is not full of his labors ? Others have been 
only speculators ; he is the grand practical reformer ; and 
whilst the chancellor of the exchequer pledges in vain the 
man and the minister, to increase the provincial members, 
Mr. Benfield has auspiciously and practically begun it. Leav- 
ing far behind him even lord Camelford's generous design of 
bestowing Old Sarum on the bank of England, Mr. Benfield 
has thrown in the borough of Cricklade to reinforce the county 
representation. Not content with this, in order to station a 
steady phalanx for all future reforms, this public-spirited usu- 
rer, amidst his charitable toils for the relief of India, did not 
forget the poor rotten constitution of his native country. For 
her, he did not disdain to stoop to the trade of a wholesale up- 
holsterer for this house, to furnish it not with the faded tapestry 
figures of antiquated merit, such as decorate, and may re- 
proach some other houses, but with real, solid, living patterns 
of true modern virtue. Paul Benfield made (reckoning him- 
self) no fewer than eight members in the last parliament. What 
copious streams of pure blood must he not have transfused into 
the veins of the present ! 

But what is even more striking than the real services of this 
new-imported patriot, is his modesty. As soon as he had con- 
ferred this benefit on the constitution, he withdrew himself 
from our applause. He conceived that the duties of a mem- 
ber of parliament (which with the elect faithful, the true be- 
lievers, the Islam of parliamentary reform, are of httle or no 
merit, perhaps not much better than specious sins) might be as 
well attended to in India as in England, and the means of re- 
formation to parliament itself, be far better provided. Mr. 
Benfield was therefore no sooner elected, than he set off* for 
Madras, and defrauded the longing eyes of parliament. We 
have never enjoyed in this house the luxury of beholding that 
minion of the human race, and contemplating that visage, which 
has so long reflected the happiness of nations. 

It was therefore not possible for the minister to consult per- 
sonally with this great man. What then was he to do ? Through 
a sagacity that never failed him in these pursuits, he found out 
in Mr. Benfield's representative, his exact resemblance. A spe- 
cific attraction by which he gravitates towards all such char- 



' 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 175 

acters, soon brought our minister into a close connexion with 
Mr. Benfield's agent and attorney ; that is, with the grand con- 
tractor (whom I name to honor) Mr. Richard Atkinson; a 
name that will be well remembered as long as the records of 
this house, as long as the records of the British treasury, as 
long as the monumental debt of England, shall endure. 

This gentleman. Sir, acts as attorney for Mr. Paul Benfield. 
Every one who hears me, is well acquainted with the sacred 
friendship, and the Steady mutual attachment that subsists be- 
tween him and the present minister. As many members as 
chose to attend in the first session of this parhament, can best 
tell their own feelings at the scenes which were then acted. 
How much that honorable gentleman was consulted in the 
original frame and fabric of the bill, commonly called Mr. 
Pitt's India bill, is matter only of conjecture ; though by no 
means difficult to divine. But the public was an indignant 
witness of the ostentation with which that measure was made 
his own, and the authority with which he brought up clause 
after clause, to stuff and fatten the rankness of that corrupt 
act. As fast as the clauses were brought up to the table, they 
were accepted. No hesitation; no discussion. They were 
received by the new minister, not with approbation, but with 
implicit submission. The reformation may be estimated, by 
seeing who was the reformer. Paul Benfield's associate and 
agent was held up to the world as legislator of Indostan. But 
it was necessary to authenticate the coalition between the men 
of intrigue in India and the minister of intrigue in England, 
by a studied display of the power of this their connecting 
link. Every trust, every honor, every distinction,^ was to be 
heaped upon him. He was at once made a director of the 
India company ; made an alderman of London ; and to be 
made, if ministry could prevail (and I am sorry to say how 
near they were prevaihng) representative of the capital of 
this kingdom. But to secure his services against all risk, he 
was brought in for a ministerial borough. On his part, he 
was Hot wanting in zeal for the common cause. His adver- 
tisements show his motives, and the merits upon which he 
stood. For your minister, this worn-out veteran submitted to 
enter into the dusty field of the London contest ; and you all 
remember, that in the same virtuous cause he submitted to 
keep a sort of public office or counting-house, where the whole 
business of the last general election was managed. It was 
openly managed by the direct agent and attorney of Benfield. 
It was managed upon Indian principles, and for an Indian in- 
terest. This was the golden cup of abominations ; this the 
chalice of the fornications of rapine, usury, and oppression, 



176 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

which was held out by the gorgeous eastern harlot ; which so 
many of the people, so many of the nobles of this land, had 
drained to the very dregs. Do you think that no reckoning was 
to follow this lewd debauch ? that no payment was to be de- 
manded for this riot of public drunkenness and national prostitu- 
tion ? Here ! you have it here before you. The principal of the 
grand election manager must be indemnified ; accordingly the 
claims of Benfield and his crew must be put above all inquiry. 

Here is a specimen of the new and pare aristocracy cre- 
ated by the right honorable gentleman, as the support of the 
crown and constitution, against the old, corrupt, refractory, 
natural interests of this kingdom ; and this is the grand coun- 
terpoise against all odious coalitions of these interests. A sin- 
gle Benfield outweighs them all ; a criminal, who long since 
ought to have fattened the region kites with his oflfal, is, by his 
majesty's ministers, enthroned in the government of a great 
kingdom, and enfeoffed with an estate, which in the compari- 
son effaces the splendor of all the nobility of Europe. To bring 
a little more distinctly into view the true secret of this dark 
transaction, I beg you particularly to advert to the circum- 
stances which I am going to place before you. 

The general corps of creditors, as well as Mr. Benfield him- 
self, not looking well into futurity, nor presaging the minister 
of this day, thought it not expedient for their common inter- 
est, that such a name as his should stand at the head of their 
list. It was therefore agreed amongst them, that Mr. Benfield 
should disappear, by making over his debt to Messrs. Taylor, 
Majendie, and Call, and should in return be secured by their 
bond. 

The debt thus exonerated of so great a weight of its odium, 
and otherwise reduced from its alarming bulk, the agents 
thought they might venture to print a list of the creditors. 
This was done for the first time in the year 1783, during the 
duke of Portland's administration. In this list the name of 
Benfield was not to be seen. To this strong negative testimo- 
ny was added the further testipnony of the nabob of Arcot. 
That prince (or rather Mr. Benfield for him) writes to the 
court of directors a letter full of complaints and accusations 
against lord Macartney, conveyed in such terms as were natu- 
ral for one of Mr. Benfield's habits and education to employ. 
Amongst the rest, he is made to complain of his lordship's en- 
deavoring to prevent an intercourse of politeness and sentiment 
between him and Mr. Benfield; and, to aggravate the affront, 
he expressly declares Mr. Benfield's visits to be only on account 
of respect and of gratitude, as no pecuniary transactions sub- 
sisted between them. 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 177 

Such, for a considerable space of time, was the outward 
form of the loan of 1777, in w^hich Mr. Benfield had no sort 
of concern. At length intelHgence arrived at Madras, that 
this debt, which had ahvays been renounced by the court of 
directors, was rather like to become the subject of something 
more like a criminal inquiry, than of any patronage or sanc- 
tion from parHament. Every ship brought accounts, one 
stronger than the other, of the prevalence of the determined 
enemies of the Indian system. The pubhc revenues became 
an object desperate to the hopes of Mr. Benfield; he there- 
fore resolved to fall upon his associates, and, in violation of 
that faith which subsists among those who have abandoned all 
other, commences a suit in the mayor's court against Taylor, 
Majendie, and Call, for the bond given to him, when he agreed 
to disappear for his own benefit as well as that of the common 
concern. The assignees of his debt, who little expected the 
springing of this mine, even from such an engineer as Mr. 
Benfield, after recovering their first alarm, thought it best to 
take ground on the real state of the transaction. They di- 
vulged the whole mystery, and were prepared to plead, that 
they had never received from Mr. Benfield any other consider- 
ation for the bond, than a transfer, in trust for himself, of his 
demand on the nabob of Arcot. A universal indignation arose 
against the perfidy of Mr. Benfield's proceeding ; the event of 
the suit was looked upon as so certain, that Benfield was com- 
pelled to retreat as precipitately as he had advanced boldly ; 
he gave up his bond, and was reinstated in his original demand, 
to wait the fortune of other claimants. At that time, and at 
Madras, this hope was dull indeed ; but at home another scene 
was preparing. 

It was long before any pubhc account of this discovery at Mad- 
ras had arrived in England, that the present minister, and his 
board of control, thought fit to determine on the debt of 1777. The 
recorded proceedings at this time knew^ nothing of any debt to 
Benfield. There was his own testimony; there was the testimony 
of the list; there was the testimony of the nabob of Arcot against it. 
Yet such was the ministers' feeling of the true secret of this trans- 
action, that they thought proper, in the teeth of all these testimo- 
nies, to give him Kcense to return to Madras. Here the ministers 
were under some embarrassment. Confounded between their 
resolution of rewarding the good services of Benfield's friends 
and associates in England, and the shame of sending that noto- 
rious incendiary to the court of the nabob of Arcot, to renew 
his intrigues against the British government, at the time they 
authorize his return, they forbid him, under the severest penal- 
ties, from any conversation with the nabob or his ministers ; 

X 



jryg MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

that is, they forbid his communication with the very person on 
account of his dealings with whom they permit his return to 
that city. To overtop this contradiction, there is not a word 
restraining him from the freest intercourse with the nabob's 
second son, the real author of all that is done in the nabob's 
name ; who, in conjunction with this very Benfield, has acquired 
an absolute dominion over that unhappy man, is able to per- 
suade him to put his signature to whatever paper they please, 
and often without any communication of the contents. This 
management was detailed to them at full length by lord Ma- 
cartney, and they cannot pretend ignorance of it. 

I believe, after this exposure of facts, no man can entertain 
a doubt of the collusion of ministers with the corrupt interest 
of the dehnquents in India. Whenever those in authority pro- 
vide for the interest of any person, on the real but concealed 
state of his affairs, without regard to his avowed, public, and I 
ostensible pretences, it must be presumed that they are in con- " 
federacy with him, because they act for him on the same 
fraudulent principles on which he acts for himself. It is plain, j 
that the ministers were fully apprized of Benfield's real situation, ! 
which he had used means to conceal whilst concealment an- 
swered his purposes. They were, or the person on whom they 
relied was, of the cabinet council of Benfield, in the very depth 
of all his mysteries. An honest magistrate compels men to 
abide by one story. An equitable judge would not hear of the j 
claim of a man who had himself thought proper to renounce it.l 
With such a judge, his shuffling and prevarication would have) 
damned his claims; such a judge never would have known*! 
but in order to animadvert upon, proceedings of that character. 

I have thus laid before you, Mr. Speaker, I think with suffi- 
cient clearness, the connexion of the ministers with Mr. Atkin- 
son at the general election; I have laid open to you the 
connexion of Atkinson with Benfield ; I have shown Benfield's 
employment of his wealth, in creating a parhamentary interest, 
to procure a ministerial . protection ; I have set before your 
eyes his large concern in the debt, his practices to hide that 
concern from the pubHc eye, and the liberal protection which 
he has received from the minister. If this chain of circum- 
stances do not lead you necessarily to conclude that the minister 
has paid to the avarice of Benfield the services done by Ben- 
field's connexions to his ambition, I do not know anything short, 
of the confession of the party that can persuade you of his guilt. 
Clandestine and collusive practice can only be traced by 
combination and comparison of circumstances. To reject such, 
combination and comparison is to reject the only means of 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 179 

detecting fraud ; it is indeed to give it a patent and free license 
to cheat with impunity. 

I confine myself to the connexion of ministers, mediately or 
immediately, with only two persons concerned in this debt. 
How many others, who support their power and greatness 
within and without doors, are concerned originally, or by 
transfers of these debts, must be left to general opinion. I refer 
to the reports of the select committee for the proceedings of 
some of the agents in these affairs, and their attempts, at least, 
to furnish ministers with the means of buying general courts, 
and even whole parliaments, in the gross. 

I know that the ministers will think it little less than acquittal, 
that they are not charged with having taken to themselves some 
part of the money of which they have made so liberal a dona- 
tion to their partisans, though the charge may be indisputably 
fixed upon the corruption of their politics. For my part, I fol- 
low their crimes to that point to which legal presumptions and 
natural indications lead me, without considering what species 
of evil motive tends most to aggravate or to extenuate the guilt 
of their conduct. But if I am to speak my private sentiments, 
I think that in a thousand cases for one it would be far less 
mischievous to the pubhc, and full as little dishonorable to 
themselves, to be polluted with direct bribery, than thus to be- 
come a standing auxiliary to the oppression, usury, and pecula- 
tion of multitudes, in order to obtain a corrupt support to their 
power. It is by bribing, not so often by being bribed, that 
wicked politicians bring ruin on mankind. Avarice is a rival 
to the pursuits of many. It finds a multitude of checks, and 
many opposers, in every walk of life. But the objects of am- 
bition are for the few; and every person who aims at indirect 
profit, and therefore wants other protection than innocence, and 
law, instead of its rival, becomes its instrument. There is a 
natural allegiance and fealty due to this domineering paramount 
evil, from all the vassal vices, which acknowledge its supe- 
riority, and readily militate under its banners ; and it is under 
that discipline alone that avarice is able to spread to any con- 
siderable extent, or to render itself a general public mischief. 
It is therefore no apology for ministers that they have not been 
bought by the East India delinquents, but that they have only 
formed an alHance with them for screening each other from 
justice, according to the exigence of their several necessities. 
That they have done so is evident; and the junction of the 
power of office in England, with the abuse of authority in the 
East, has not only prevented even the appearance of redress to 
the grievances of India, but I wish it may not be found to have 



180 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

dulled, if not extinguished, the honor, the candor, the generosity, 
the good nature, which used formerly to characterize the 
people of England. I confess, I wish that some more feeling 
than I have yet observed for the sufferings of our fellow-crea- 
tures and fellow-subjects in that oppressed part of the world, 
had manifested itself in any one quarter of the kingdom, or in 
any one large description of men. 

That these oppressions exist, is a fact no more denied, than 
it is resented as it ought to be. Much evil has been done in 
India under the British authority. What has been done to re- 
dress it? We are no longer surprised at anything. We are 
above the unlearned and vulgar passion of admiration. But it 
will astonish posterity, when they read our opinions in our 
actions, that after years of inquiry we have found out that the 
sole grievance of India consisted in this, that the servants of 
the company there had not profited enough of their opportuni- 
ties, nor drained it sufficiently of its treasures ; when they shall 
hear that the very first and only important act of a commission 
specially named by act of parliament, is to charge upon an 
undone country, in favor of a handful of men in the humblest 
ranks of the public service, the enormous sum of perhaps four 
milfions of sterling money. 

It is difficult for the most wise and upright government to 
correct the abuses of remote delegated power, productive of 
unmeasured wealth, and protected by the boldness and strength 
of the same ill-got riches. These abuses, full of their own wild 
native vigor, will grow and flourish under mere neglect. But 
where the supreme authority, not content with winking at the 
rapacity of its inferior instruments, is so shameless and cor- 
rupt as openly to give bounties and premiums for disobedience 
to its laws ; when it will not trust to the activity of avarice in 
the pursuit of its own gains ; when it secures public robbery 
by all the careful jealousy and attention with which it ought to 
protect property from such violence ; the commonwealth then 
is become totally perverted from its purposes ; neither God nor 
man will long endure it ; nor will it long endure itself. In that 
case, there is an unnatural infection, a pestilential taint ferment- 
ing in the constitution of society, which fever and convulsions 
of some kind or other, must throw off; or in which the vital 
powers, worsted in an unequal struggle, are pushed back upon 
themselves, and by a reversal of their whole functions, fester to 
gangrene, to death ; and instead of what was but just now the 
delight and boast of creation, there will be cast out in the face 
of the sun, a bloated, putrid, noisome carcase, full of stench 
and poison, an offence, a horror, a lesson to the world. 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 181 

In my opinion, we ought not to wait for the fruitless instruc- 
tion of calamity, to inquire into the abuses which bring upon 
us ruin in the worst of its forms, in the loss of our fame and 
virtue. But the right honorable gentleman says, in answer to 
all the powerful arguments of my honorable friend — " that this 
inquiry is of a delicate nature, and that the state will suffer 
detriment, by the exposure of this transaction." But it is ex- 
posed ; it is perfectly known in every member, in every parti- 
cle, and in every way, except that which may lead to a remedy. 
He knows that the papers of correspondence are printed, and 
that they are in every hand. 

He and delicacy are a rare and singular coalition. He thinks 
that to divulge our Indian politics, may be highly dangerous. 
He ! the mover ! the chairman ! the reporter of the committee 
of secrecy ! he that brought forth in the utmost detail, in sev- 
eral vast, printed fohos, the most recondite parts of the politics, 
the military, the revenues of the British empire in India. With 
six great chopping bastards, each as lusty as an infant Hercu- 
les, this delicate creature blushes at the sight of his new bride- 
groom, assumes a virgin delicacy ; or, to use a more fit, as 
well as a more poetic comparison, the person so squeamish, so 
timid, so trembling lest the winds of heaven should visit too 
roughly, is expanded to broad sunshine, exposed like the sow 
of imperial augury, lying in the mud with all the prodigies of 
her fertility about her, as evidence of her delicate amours — 
Triginia capitum foetus enixa jacehat, alba solo recuhans alhi 
circum uhera nati. 

Whilst discovery of the misgovernment of others, led to his 
own power, it was wise to inquire ; it was safe to publish : there 
was then no danger. But when his object is obtained, and in 
his imitation he has outdone the crimes that he had reprobated 
in volumes of reports, and in sheets of bills of pains and penal- 
ties, then concealment becomes prudence ; and it concerns the 
safety of the state, that we should not know, in a mode of par- 
liamentary cognizance, what all the world knows but too well : 
that is, in what manner he chooses to dispose of the public 
revenues to the creatures of his politics. 

The debate has been long, and as much so on my part, at 
least, as on the part of those who have spoken before me. But 
long as it is, the more material half of the subject has hardly 
been touched on ; that is, the corrupt and destructive system 
to which this debt has been rendered subservient, and which 
seems to be pursued with-^ at least as much vigor and regu- 
larity as ever. If I considered your ease or my own, rather 
than the weight and importance of this question, I ought to 

14 



182 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

make some apology to you, perhaps some apology to myself, 
for having detained your attention so long. I know on what 
ground I tread. This subject, at one time taken up with so 
much fervor and zeal, is no longer a favorite in this house. 
The house itself has undergone a great and signal revolution. 
To some, the subject is strange and uncouth ; to several, harsh 
and distasteful ; to the relics of the last parliament, it is a mat- 
ter of fear and apprehension. It is natural for those who have 
seen their friends sink in the tornado which raged during the 
late shift of the monsoon, and have hardly escaped on the 
planks of the general wreck, it is but too natural for them, as 
soon as they make the rocks and quicksands of their former 
disasters, to put about their new-built barks, and, as much as 
possible, to keep aloof from this perilous lee-shore. 

But let us do what we please to put India from our thoughts, 
we can do nothing to separate it from our public interest and 
our national reputation. Our attempts to banish this importu- 
nate duty, will only make it return upon us again and again, 
and every time in a shape more unpleasant than the former. 
A government has been fabricated for that great province; 
the right honorable gentleman says, that therefore you ought 
not to examine into its conduct. Heaven ! what an argu- 
ment is this ! We are not to examine into the conduct of the 
direction, because it is an old government; we are not to 
examine into this board of control, because it is a new one. 
Then we are only to examine into the conduct of those who 
have no conduct to account for. Unfortunately the basis 
of this new government has been laid on old condemned de- 
linquents, and its superstructure is raised out of prosecutors 
turned into protectors. The event has been such as might 
be expected. .But if it had been otherwise constituted; had 
it been constituted even as I wished, and as the mover 
of this question had planned, the better part of the proposed 
establishment was in the publicity of its proceedings ; in its 
perpetual responsibility to parliament. Without this check, 
what is our government at home, even awed, as every Euro- 
pean government is, by an audience formed of the other states 
of Europe, by the applause or condemnation of the discern- 
ing and critical company before which it acts? But if the 
scene on the other side the globe, which tempts, invites, almost 
compels to tyranny and rapine, be not inspected with the eye 
of a severe and unremitting vigilance, shame and destruc- 
tion must ensue. For one, the worst event of this day, though 
it may deject, shall not break or subdue me. The call upon 
us is authoritative. Let who will shrink back, I shall be 



NABOB OF ARGOT'S DEBTS. 183 

found at my post. Baffled, discountenanced, subdued, dis- 
credited, as tlie cause of justice and humanity is, it will be 
only the dearer to me. Whoever, therefore, shall at any time 
bring before you anything towards the rehef of our distressed 
fellow-citizens in India, and towards a subversion of the pres- 
ent most corrupt and oppressive system for its government, in 
me shall find a weak, I am afraid, but a steady, earnest, and 
faithful assistant. 



MR. BURKE'S SPEECH, 

ON THE BILL 

FOR THE RELIEF OF PROTESTANT DISSENTERS. 



I ASSURE you, Sir, that the honorable gentleman, who spoke 
last but one, need not be in the least fear that I should make a 
war of particles upon his opinion, whether the church of Eng- 
land should, would, or ought to be alarmed. I am very clear 
that this house has no one reason in the world to think she is 
alarmed by the bill brought before you. It is something ex- 
traordinary that the only symptom of alarm in the church of 
England should appear in the petition of some dissenters ; with 
whom, I believe, very few in this house are yet acquainted ; and 
of whom you know no more than you are assured by the 
honorable gentleman, that they are not Mahometans. Of the 
church we know they are not, by the name that they assume. 
They are then dissenters. The first symptom of an alarm 
comes from some dissenters assembled round the Hnes of Chat- 
ham : these lines become the security of the church of Eng- 
land ! The honorable gentleman, in speaking of the lines of 
Chatham, tells us, that they serve not only for the security of 
the wooden walls of England, but for the defence of the church 
of England. I suspect, the wooden walls of England secure 
the lines of Chatham, rather than the lines of Chatham secure 
the wooden walls of England. 

Sir, the church of England, if only defended by this misera- 
ble petition upon your table, must, I am afraid, upon the prin- 
ciples of true fortification, be soon destroyed. But fortunately 
her walls, bulwarks, and bastions, are constructed of other 
materials than of stubble and straw ; are built up with the 
strong and stable matter of the gospel of liberty, and founded 
on a true, constitutional, legal establishment. But, Sir, she has 
other securities ; she has the security of her own doctrines ; 
she has the security of the piety, the sanctity of her own pro- 
fessors ; their learning is a bulwark to defend her ; she has the 
security of the two universities, not shook in any single battle- 
ment, in any single pinnacle. 

But the honorable gentleman has mentioned, indeed, princi- 
ples which astonish me rather more than ever. The honorable 
gentleman thinks that the dissenters enjoy a large share of 



SPEECH ON THE RELIEF OF PROTESTANT DISSENTERS. 1 85 

liberty under a connivance ; and he thinks that the estabHshing 
toleration by law is an attack upon Christianity. 

The first of these is a contradiction in terms. Liberty under 
a connivance ! Connivance is a relaxation from slavery, not a 
definition of liberty. What is connivance, but a state under 
which all slaves live ? If I was to describe slavery, I would 
say with those who hate it, it is living under will, not under 
law : if, as it is stated by its advocates, I would say, that, like 
earthquakes, like thunder, or other wars the elements make 
upon mankind, it happens rarely, it occasionally comes now 
and then upon people, who upon ordinary occasions enjoy the 
same legal government of liberty. Take it under the descrip- 
tion of those who would soften those features, the state of 
slavery and connivance is the same thing. If the liberty en- 
joyed be a liberty not of toleration, but of connivance, the only 
question is, whether establishing such a law is an attack upon 
Christianity. Toleration an attack upon Christianity ! What 
then, are we come to this pass, to suppose that nothing can 
support Christianity, but the principles of persecution ? Is that 
then the idea of Christianity itself, that it ought to have estab- 
lishments, that it ought to have laws against dissenters, but the 
breach of which laws is to be connived at? What a picture of 
toleration ; what a picture of laws, of establishments ; what a 
picture of rehgious and civil liberty ! I am persuaded the 
honorable gentleman does not see it in this light. But these 
very terms become the strongest reasons for my support of the 
bill ; for I am persuaded that toleration, so far from being an 
attack upon Christianity, becomes the best and surest support 
that possibly can be given to it. The Christian religion itself 
arose without establishment, it arose even without toleration ; 
and whilst its own principles were not tolerated, it conquered 
all the powers of darkness, it conquered all the powers of the 
world. The moment if began to depart from these principles, 
it converted the establishment into tyranny ; it subverted its 
foundations from that very hour. Zealous as I am for the 
principle of an estabhshment, so just an abhorrence do I con- 
ceive against whatever may shake it. I know nothing but the 
supposed necessity of persecution that can make an establish- 
ment disgusting. I would have toleration a part of the estab- 
hshment, as a principle favorable to Christianity, and as a part 
of Christianity. 

All seem agreed that the law, as it stands, inflicting penalties 
on all religious teachers and on schoolmasters, who do not sign 
the thirty-nine articles of religion, ought not to be executed. 
We are all agreed that the laio is not good; for that, I presume, 
is undoubtedly the idea of a law that ought not to be executed. 

Y 16* 



186 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON A BILL FOR THE 

The question therefore is, whether in a well-constituted common- 
wealth, which we desire ours to be thought, and I trust, intend 
that it should be, whether in such a commonwealth it is wise to 
retain those laws which it is not proper to execute. A penal 
law, not ordinarily put in execution, seems to me to be a very 
absurd and a very dangerous thing. For if its principle be 
right, if the object of its prohibitions and penalties be a real 
evil, then you do in effect permit that very evil, which not only 
the reason of the thing, but your very law, declares ought hot 
to be permitted ; and thus it reflects exceedingly on the wisdom, 
and consequently derogates not a little from the authority of a 
legislature, who can at once forbid and suffer, and in the same 
breath promulgate penalty and indemnity to the same persons, 
and for the very same actions. But if the object of the law be 
no moral or political evil, then you ought not to hold even a 
terror to those, whom you ought certainly not to punish — for 
if it is not right to hurt, it is neither right nor wise to menace. 
Such laws, therefore, as they must be defective either in justice -} 
or wisdom, or both, so they cannot exist without a considerable 
degree of danger.. Take* them which way you will, they are 
prest with ugly alternatives. 

1st. All penal laws are either upon popular prosecution, or 
on the part of the crown. Now, if they may be roused from 
their sleep, whenever a minister thinks proper, as instruments 
of oppression, then they put vast bodies of men into a state of 
slavery and court dependence ; since their liberty of conscience 
and their power of executing their functions depend entirely on 
his will. I would have no man derive his means of continuing 
any function, or his being restrained from it, but from the laws 
only ; they should be his only superior and sovereign lords. 

2d. They put statesmen and magistrates into a habit of playing 
fast and loose with the laws, straining or relaxing them as may 
best suit their poHtical purposes; and, in that light, tend to 
corrupt the executive power through all its offices. 

3d. If they are taken up on popular actions, their operation 
in that light also is exceedingly evil. They become the instru- 
ments of private malice, private avarice, and not of public 
regulation ; they nourish the worst of men to the prejudice of 
the best, punishing tender consciences, and rewarding informers. 

Shall we, as the honorable gentleman tells us we may with 
perfect security, trust to the manners of the age ? I am well 
pleased with the general manners of the times ; but the desultory 
execution of penal laws, the thing I condemn, does not depend 
on the manners of the times. I would however have the laws 
tuned in unison with the manners — very dissonant are a gentle 
country and cruel laws; very dissonant that your reason is 



RELIEF OF PROTESTANT DISSENTERS. 187 

furious, but your passions moderate, and that you are always 
equitable except in your courts of justice. 

I will beg leave to state to the house one argument, which 
has been much relied upon — that the dissenters are not unani- 
mous upon this business ; that many persons are alarmed ; that 
it will create a disunion among the dissenters. 

When any dissenters, or any body of people, come here with 
a petition, it is not the number of people, but the reasonableness 
of the request, that should weigh with the house. A body of 
dissenters come to this house, and say. Tolerate us-r-we desire 
neither the parochial advantage of tithes, nor dignities, nor the 
stalls of your cathedrals : No ! let the venerable orders of the 
hierarchy exist with all their advantages. And shall I tell them, 
I reject your just and reasonable petition, not because it shakes 
the church, but because there are others, while you lie groveUing 
upon the earth, that will kick and bite you ? Judge which of 
these descriptions of men comes with a fair request — that which 
says, Sir, I desire liberty for my own, because I trespass on no 
man's conscience ; — or the other, which says, I desire that these 
men should not be suffered to act according to their consciences, 
though I am tolerated to act according to mine. But I sign a 
body of articles, which is my title to toleration ; I sign no more, 
because more are against my conscience. But I desire that 
you will not tolerate these men, because they will not go so far 
as I, though I desire to be tolerated, who will not go as far as 
you. No : imprison them, if they come within five miles of a 
corporate town, because they do not believe what I do in point 
of doctrines. 

Shall I not say to these men, arrangez vous canaille. You, 
who are not the predominant power, will not give to others the 
relaxation under which you are yourself suffered to live. I 
have as high an opinion of the doctrines of the church as you. 
I receive them implicitly, or I put my own explanation on them, 
or take that which seems to me to come best recommended by 
authority. There are those of the dissenters who think more 
rigidly of the doctrine of the articles relative to predestination, 
than others do. They sign the article relative to it ex animo 
and literally. Others allow a latitude of construction. These 
two parties are in the church, as well as among the dissenters ; 
yet, in the church, we live quietly under the same roof I do 
not see why, as long as Providence gives us no further light 
into this great mystery, we should not leave things as the divine 
wisdom has left them. But suppose all these things to me to be 
clear (which Providence however seems to have left obscure), 
yet whilst dissenters claim a toleration in things, which seeming 
clear to me, are obscure to them, without entering into the merit 



188 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON A BILL FOR THE 

of the articles, with what face can these men say, Tolerate 
us, but do not tolerate them ? Toleration is good for all, or it is 
good for none. 

The discussion this day is not between establishment on one 
hand, and toleration on the other ; but between those who, being 
tolerated themselves, refuse toleration to others. That power 
should be puffed up with pride, that authority should degenerate 
into rigor, if not laudable, is but too natural. But this proceed- 
ing of theirs is much beyond the usual allowance to human 
weakness ; it not only is shocking to our reason, but it provokes 
our indignation. Quid domini facient, audent cum talia fares ? 
It is not the proud prelate thundering in his commission court, 
but a pack of manumitted slaves, with the lash of the beadle 
flagrant on their backs, and their legs still galled with their 
fetters, that would drive their brethren into that prison-house 
from whence they have just been permitted to escape. If, 
instead of puzzling themselves in the depths of the divine coun- 
sels, they would turn to the mild morality of the gospel, they 
would read their own condemnation — O, thou wicked servant, 
I forgave thee all that debt because thou desiredst me : shouldest 
not thou also have compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I 
had pity on thee ? 

In my opinion. Sir, a magistrate, whenever he goes to put 
any restraint upon rehgious freedom, can only do it upon this 
ground, that the person dissenting does not dissent from the 
scruples of ill-informed conscience, but from a party ground 
of dissension, in order to raise a faction in the state. We give, 
with regard to rites and ceremonies, an indulgence to tender 
consciences. But if dissent is at all punished in any country, 
if at all it can be punished upon any pretence, it is upon a 
presumption, not that a man is supposed to differ conscientiously 
from the establishment, but that he resists truth for the sake of 
faction ; that he abets diversity of opinions in religion to distract 
the state, and to destroy the peace of his country. This is the 
only plausible, for there is no true ground of persecution. As 
the laws stand, therefore, let us see how we have thought fit 
to act. 

If there is any one thing within the competency of a ma- 
gistrate with regard to religion, it is this, that he has a right to 
direct the exterior ceremonies of religion ; that whilst interior 
religion is within the jurisdiction of God alone, the external 
part, bodily action, is within the province of the chief governor. 
Hooker, and all the great lights of the church, have constantly 
argued this to be a part within the province of the civil ma- 
gistrate ; but look at the act of toleration of William and Mary, 



RELIEF OF PROTESTANT DISSENTERS. 189 

there you will see the civil magistrate has not only dispensed 
with those things which are more particularly within his pro- 
vince, with those things which faction might be supposed to 
take up for the sake of making visible and external divisions, 
and raising a standard of revolt, but has also, from sound 
politic considerations, relaxed on those points which are con- 
fessedly without his province. 

The honorable gentleman, speaking of the heathens, certainly 
could not mean to recommend anything that is derived from 
that impure source. But he has praised the tolerating spirit of 
the heathens. Well ! but the honorable gentleman will recollect 
that heathens, that polytheists, must permit a number of di- 
vinities. It is the very essence of its constitution. But was it 
ever heard that polytheism tolerated a dissent from a polythe- 
istic estabhshment ? the belief of one God only? Never, never ! 
Sir, they constantly carried on persecution against that doctrine. 
I will not give heathens the glory of a doctrine which I consider 
the best part of Christianity. The honorable gentleman must 
recollect the Roman law that was clearly against the introduc- 
tion of any foreign rites in matters of religion. You have it at 
large in Livy, how they persecuted in the first introduction the 
rites of Bacchus : and even before Christ, to say nothing of 
their subsequent persecutions, they persecuted the druids and 
others. Heathenism, therefore, as in other respects erroneous, 
was erroneous in point of persecution. I do not say, every 
heathen, who persecuted, was therefore an impious man : I only 
say he was mistaken, as such a man is now. But, says the 
honorable gentleman, they did not persecute epicureans. No ; 
the epicureans had no quarrel with their religious estabhshment, 
nor desired any religion for themselves. It would have been 
very extraordinary, if irreligious heathens had desired either a 
religious establishment or toleration. But, says the honorable 
gentleman, the epicureans entered, as others, into the temples. 
They did so ; they defied all subscription ; they defied all sorts 
of conformity ; there was no subscription to which they were 
not ready to set their hands, no ceremonies they refused to 
practise ; they made it a principle of their irreligion, outwardly 
to conform to any religion. These atheists eluded all that you 
could do ; so will all freethinkers for ever. Then you suffer, or 
the weakness of your law has suffered, those great dangerous 
animals to escape notice, whilst- you have nets that entangle the 
poor fluttering silken wings of a tender conscience. 

The honorable gentleman insists much upon this circumstance 
of objection, namely, the division amongst the dissenters. Why, 
Sir, the dissenters by the nature of the term are open to have a 
division among themselves. They are dissenters, because they 



190 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON A BILL FOR THE 

differ from the church of England ; not that they agree among 
themselves. There are presbyterians, there are independents, 
some that do not agree to infant-baptism, others that do not 
agree to the baptism of adults, or any baptism. All these are 
however tolerated under the acts of King William, and subse- 
quent acts ; and their diversity of sentiments with one another 
did not, and could not, furnish an argument against their tolera- 
tion, when their difference with ourselves furnished none. 

But, says the honorable gentleman, if you suffer them to go 
on, they will shake the fundamental principles of Christianity. 
Let it be considered that this argument goes as strongly against 
connivance, which you allow, as against toleration, which you 
reject. The gentleman sets out with a principle of perfect liberty, 
or, as he describes it, connivance. But for fear of dangerous opin- 
ions, you leave it in your power to vex a man who has not held 
any one dangerous opinion whatsoever. If one man is a professed 
atheist, another man the best Christian, but dissents from two of 
the thirty-nine articles, I may let escape the atheist, because I 
know him to be an atheist, because I am perhaps so inclined 
myself, and because I may connive where I think proper ; but 
the conscientious dissenter, on account of his attachment to that 
general religion, which perhaps I hate, I shall take care to 
punish, because I may punish when I think proper. Therefore, 
connivance being an engine of private malice or private favor, 
not of good government ; an engine, which totally fails of sup- 
pressing atheism, but oppresses conscience ; I say, that principle 
becomes not serviceable, but dangerous to Christianity ; that it 
is not toleration, but contrary to it, even contrary to peace ; 
that the penal system to which it belongs is a dangerous prin- 
ciple in the economy either of religion or government. 

The honorable gentleman, and in him I comprehend all those 
who oppose the bill, bestowed in support of their side of the 
question as much argument as it could bear, and much more 
of learning and decoration than it deserved. He thinks conni- 
vance consistent, but legal toleration inconsistent with the. inter- 
ests of Christianity. Perhaps I would go as far as that honorable 
gentleman, if I thought toleration inconsistent with those inter- 
ests. God forbid ! I may be mistaken, but I take toleration to 
be a part of religion. I do not know which I would sacrifice ; 
I would keep them both ; it is not necessary I should sacrifice 
either. I do not like the idea of tolerating the doctrines of 
Epicurus : but nothing in the world propagates them so much 
as the oppression of the poor, of the honest, and candid disciples 
of the religion we profess in common, I mean revealed religion ; 
nothing sooner makes them take a short cut out of the bondage 
of sectarian vexation, into open and direct infidelity, than tor- 



RELIEF OF PROTESTANT DISSENTERS. 191 

meriting men for every difference. My opinion is, that in 
establishing the Christian rehgion wherever you find it, curiosity 
or research is its best security ; and in this way a man is a 
great deal better justified in saying, tolerate all kinds of con- 
sciences, than in imitating the heathens, whom the honorable 
gentleman quotes, in tolerating those who have none. I am not 
over-fond of caUing for the secular arm upon these misguided or 
misguiding men; but if ever it ought to be raised, it ought 
surely to be raised against these very men, not against others, 
whose liberty of rehgion you make a pretext for proceedings 
which drive them into the bondage of impiety. What figure 
do I make in saying, I do not attack the works of these athe- 
istical writers, but I will keep a rod hanging over the consci- 
entious man, their bitterest enemy, because these atheists may 
take advantage of the liberty of their foes, to introduce 
irreligion? The best book that ever perhaps has been written 
against these people, is that in which the author has collected 
in a body the whole of the infidel code, and has brought the 
writers into one body to cut them all off together. This was 
done by a dissenter, who never did subscribe the thirty-nine 
articles — Dr. Leland. But if, after all, this danger is to be 
apprehended, if you are really fearful that Christianity will 
indirectly suffer by this liberty, you have my free consent ; go 
directly and by the straight way, and not by a circuit in which 
in your road you may destroy your friends : point your arms 
against these men, who do the mischief you fear promoting ; 
point your arms against men, who, not contented with en- 
deavoring to turn your eyes from the blaze and effulgence of 
light, by which life and immortality is so gloriously demon- 
strated by the gospel, would even extinguish that faint glim- 
mering of nature, that only comfort supplied to ignorant man 
before this great illumination — those, who, by attacking even 
the possibility of all revelation, arraign all the dispensations of 
providence to man. These are the wicked dissenters you 
ought to fear ; these are the people against whom you ought to 
aim the shaft of the law ; these are the men to whom, arrayed 
in all the terrors of government, I would say, you shall not 
degrade us into brutes ; these men, these factious men, as the 
honorable gentleman properly called them, are the just objects 
of vengeance, not the conscientious dissenter ; these men, who 
would take away whatever ennobles the rank or consoles the 
misfortunes of human nature, by breaking off that connexion 
of observances, of affections, of hopes and fears, which bind us 
to the divinity, and constitute the glorious and distinguishing 
prerogative of humanity, that of being a religious creature; 
against these I would have the law^s rise in all their majesty of 



192 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON A BILL FOR THE 

terrors, to fulminate such vain and impious wretches, and to 
awe them into impotence by the only dread they can fear or 
beheve, to learn that eternal lesson — Discite jusiitiam moniti, et 
non temnere Divos. 

At the same time that I would cut up the very root of atheism, 
I would respect all conscience, all conscience that is really such, 
and which, perhaps, its very tenderness proves to be sincere. 
I wish to see the established church of England great and 
powerful ; I wish to see her foundations laid low and deep, that 
she may crush the giant powers of rebellious darkness ; I would 
have her head raised up to that Heaven to which she conducts 
us. I would have her open wide her hospitable gates by a 
noble and liberal comprehension ; but I would have no breaches 
in her wall ; I would have her cherish all those who are within, 
and pity all those who are without ; I would have her a com- 
mon blessing to the world, an example, if not an instructor, to 
those who have not the happiness to belong to her ; I would 
have her give a lesson of peace to mankind, that a vexed and 
wandering generation might be taught to seek for repose and 
toleration in the maternal bosom of Christian charity, and not 
in the harlot lap of infidelity and indifference. Nothing has 
driven people more into that house of seduction than the mutual 
hatred of Christian congregations. Long may we enjoy our 
church under a learned and edifying episcopacy. But episco- 
pacy may fail, and religion exist. The most horrid and cruel 
blow that can be offered to civil society is through atheism. 
Do not promote diversity ; when you have it, bear it ; have as 
many sorts of religion as you find in your country ; there is a 
reasonable worship in them all. The others, the infidels, are 
outlaws of the constitution; not of this country, but of the 
human race. They are never, never to be supported, never to 
be tolerated. Under the systematic attacks of these people, I 
see some of the props of good government already begin to fail ; 
I see propagated principles, which will not leave to religion even 
a toleration. I see myself sinking every day under the attacks 
of these wretched people — How shall I arm myself against 
them ? by uniting all those in affection who are united in the 
belief of the great principles of the Godhead that made and 
sustains the world. They who hold revelation give double 
assurance to the country. Even the man who does not hold 
revelation, yet who wishes that it were proved to him, who 
observes a pious silence with regard to it, such a man, though 
not a Christian, is governed by religious principles. Let him 
be tolerated in this country. Let it be but a serious religion, 
natural or revealed, take what you can get ; cherish, blow up 
the slighest spark. One day it may be a pure and holy flame. 



RELIEF OF PROTESTANT DISSENTERS. 193 

By this proceeding you form an alliance, offensive and defen- 
sive, against those great ministers of darkness in the world, 
•who are endeavoring to shake all the v^orks of God established 
in order and beauty. Perhaps I am carried too far ; but it is 
in the road into which the honorable gentleman has led me. 
The honorable gentleman would have us fight this confederacy 
of the powers of darkness with the single arm of the church 
of England ; would have us not only fight against infidelity, 
but fight at the same time with all the faith in the world except 
our own. In the moment we make a front against the common 
enemy, we have to combat with all those who are the natural 
friends of our cause, Strong as we are, we are not equal to 
this. The cause of the church of England is included in that 
of religion, not that of religion in the church of England. I 
will stand up at all times for the rights of conscience, as it is 
such, not for its particular modes against its general principles. 
One may be right, another mistaken ; but if I have more strength 
than my brother, it shall be employed to support, not to oppress 
his weakness ; if I have more light, it shall be used to guide, 
not to dazzle him. 



17 



EXTRACT FROM THE 

SPEECH OF MR. BURKE, 

UPON 

MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 



Mr. Speaker, 

I THANK you for pointing to me. I really wished much to en- 
gage your attention in an early stage of the debate. I have been 
long very deeply, though perhaps ineffectually, engaged in the 
preliminary inquiries, which have continued without intermission 
for some years. Though I have felt, with some degree of sen- 
sibility, the natural and inevitable impressions of the several 
matters of fact, as they have been successively disclosed, I have 
not at any time attempted to trouble you on the merits of the sub- 
ject ; and very little on any of the points which incidentally 
arose in the course of our proceedings. But I should be sorry 
to be found totally silent upon this day. Our inquiries are now 
come to their final issue : — It is now to be determined whether 
the three years of laborious parliamentary research, whether 
the twenty years of patient Indian suffering, are to produce a 
substantial reform in our eastern administration ; or whether 
our knowledge of the grievances has abated our zeal for the 
correction of them, and our very inquiry into the evil was only 
a pretext to elude the remedy which is demanded from us by 
humanity, by justice, and by every principle of true policy. 
Depend upon it, this business cannot be indifferent to our fame. 
It will turn out a matter of great disgrace or great glory to 
the whole British nation. We are on a conspicuous stage, and 
the world marks our demeanor. 

I am therefore a little concerned to perceive the spirit and 
temper in which the debate has been all along pursued upon 
one side of the house. The declamation of the gentlemen who 
oppose the bill has been abundant and vehement ; but they have 
been reserved and even silent about the fitness or unfitness of 
the plan to attain the direct object it has in view. By some 
gentlemen it is taken up (by way of exercise, I presume) as a 
point of law on a question of private property, and corporate 
franchise ; by others it is regarded as the petty intrigue of a 
faction at court, and argued merely as it tends to set this man 
a little higher, or that a little lower in situation and power. All 
the void has been filled up with invectives against coalition ; 
with allusions to the loss of America ; with the activity and 



II 



BURKE'S SPEECH ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 195 

inactivity of ministers. The total silence of these gentlemen 
concerning the interest and well-being of the people of India, 
and concerning the interest which this nation has in the com- 
merce and revenues of that country, is a strong indication of 
the value which they set upon these objects. 

It has been a little painful to me to observe the intrusion into 
this important debate of such company as quo warranto, and 
mandamus, and certiorari; as if we were on a trial about 
mayors and aldermen, and capital burgesses ; or engaged in a 
suit concerning the borough of Penryn, or Saltash, or St. Ives, 
or St. Mawes. Gentlemen have argued with as much heat 
and passion, as if the first things in the world were at stake ; 
and their topics are such, as belong only to matter of the 
lowest and meanest litigation. It is not right, it is not worthy 
of us, in this manner to depreciate the value, to degrade the 
majesty, of this grave dehberation of policy and empire. 

For my part, I have thought myself bound, when a matter 
of this extraordinary weight came before me, not to consider 
(as some gentlemen are so fond of doing) whether the bill 
originated from a secretary of state for the home department, 
or from a secretary for the foreign ; from a minister of influ- 
ence or a minister of the people ; from Jacob or from Esau. I 
asked myself, and I asked myself nothing else, what part it was 
fit for a member of parliament, who has supplied a mediocrity 
of talents by the extreme of diligence, and who has thought 
himself obliged, by the research of years, to wind himself into 
the inmost recesses and labyrinths of the Indian detail, what 
part, I say, it became such a member of parhament to take, 
when a minister of state, in conformity to a recommendation 
from the throne, has brought before us a system for the better 
government of the territory and commerce of the east. In this 
hght, and in this only, I will trouble you with my sentiments. 

It is not only agreed but demanded, by the right honorable 
gentleman, and by those who act with him, that a icJioh system 
ought to be produced ; that it ought not to be an half measure ; 
that it ought to be no 'palliative ; but a legislative provision, 
vigorous, substantial, and effective. — I believe that no man who 
understands the subject can doubt for a moment, that those 
must be the conditions of anything deserving the name of a 
reform in the Indian government : that anything short of them 
would not only be delusive, but, in this matter which admits no 
medium, noxious in the extreme. 

To all the conditions proposed by his adversaries, the mover 
of the bill perfectly agrees ; and on his performance of them 
he rests his cause. On the other hand, not the least objection 
has been taken, with regard to the efficiency, the vigor, or the 



196 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

completeness of the scheme. I am therefore warranted to as- 
sume, as a thing admitted, that the bills accompHsh what both 
sides of the house demand as essential. The end is completely- 
answered, so far as the direct and immediate object is concerned. 

But though there are no direct, yet there are various col- 
lateral objections made ; objections froro the effects which this 
plan of reform for Indian administration may have on the privi- 
leges of great public bodies in England ; from its probable influ- 
ence on the constitutional rights, or on the freedom and integ- 
rity of the several branches of the legislature. 

Before I answer these objections, I must beg leave to observe, 
that if we are not able to contrive some method of governing 
India well, which will not of necessity become the means of 
governing Great Britain z7/, a ground is laid for their eternal 
separation ; but none for sacrificing the people of that country 
to our constitution. I am however far from being persuaded 
that any such incompatibility of interest does at all exist. On 
the contrary, I am certain that every means, effectual to pre- 
serve India from oppression, is a guard to preserve the British 
constitution from its worst corruption. To show this, I will 
consider the objections, which I think are four. 

1st. That the bill is an attack on the chartered rights of men. 

2dly. That it increases the influence of the crown. 

3dly. That it does not increase, but diminishes, the influence 
of the crown, in order to promote the interests of certain 
ministers and their party. 

4thly. That it deeply affects the national credit. 

As to the first of these objections ; I must observe that the 
phrase of " the chartered rights of men,^^ is full of affectation ; 
and very unusual in the discussion of privileges conferred by 
charters of the present description. But it is not difficult to 
discover what end that ambiguous mode of expression, so often 
reiterated, is meant to answer. 

The rights of men, that is to say, the natural rights of man- 
kind, are indeed sacred things ; and if any public measure is 
proved mischievously to affect them, the objection ought to be 
fatal to that measure, even if no charter at all could be set up 
against it. If these natural rights are further affirmed and de- 
clared by express covenants, if they are clearly defined and 
secured against chicane, against power, and authority, by writ- 
ten instruments and positive engagements, they are in a still 
better condition : they partake not only of the sanctity of the 
object so secured, but of that solemn pubhc faith itself, which 
secures an object of such importance. Indeed this formal 
recognition, by the sovereign power, of an original right in the 
subject, can never be subverted, but by rooting up the holding 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 197 

radical principles of government, and even of society itself. 
The charters, which v^e call by distinction great, are public in- 
struments of this nature ; I mean the charters of king John 
and king Henry the third. The things secured by these instru- 
ments may, v^ithout any deceitful ambiguity, be very fitly called 
the chartered rights of men. 

These charters have made the very name of a charter dear 
to the heart of every Englishman. — But, Sir, there may be, 
and there are charters, not only different in nature, but formed 
on principles the very reverse of those of the great charter. Of 
this kind is the charter of the East India company. Magna 
charta is a charter to restrain power, and to destroy monopoly. 
The East India charter is a charter to estabhsh monopoly, and 
to create power. Political power and commercial monopoly 
are not the rights of men ; and the rights of them derived from 
charters, it is fallacious and sophistical to call " the chartered 
rights of men." These chartered rights, (to speak of such 
charters and of their effects in terms of the greatest possible 
moderation,) do at least suspend the natural rights of mankind 
at large ; and in their very frame and constitution are liable to 
fall into a direct violation of them. 

It is a charter of this latter description (that is to say, a 
charter of power and monopoly) which is afiected by the bill 
before you. The bill, Sir, does, without question, affect it ; it 
does affect it essentially and substantially. But having stated 
to you of what description the chartered rights are which this 
bill touches, I feel no difficulty at all in acknowledging the ex- 
istence of those chartered rights, in their fullest extent. They 
belong to the company in the surest manner ; and they are 
secured to that body by every sort of public sanction. They 
are stamped by the faith of the king ; they are stamped by the 
faith of parliament ; they have been bought for money, for 
money honestly and fairly paid ; they have been bought for 
valuable consideration, over and over again. 

I therefore freely admit to the East India company their 
claim to exclude their fellow-subjects from the commerce of 
half the globe. I admit their claim to administer an annual 
territorial revenue of seven millions sterling; to command an 
army of sixty thousand men ; and to dispose, (under the con- 
trol of a sovereign imperial discretion, and with the due ob- 
servance of the natural and local law) of the lives and fortunes 
of thirty milUons of their fellow-creatures. All this they pos- 
sess by charter and by acts of parliament, (in my opinion,) 
without a shadow of controversy. 

Those who carry the rights and claims of the company the 
furthest do not contend for more than this ; and all this I freely 

j7# 



198 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH |B| 

grant. But granting all this, they must grant to me in my turn, 
that all political power which is set over men, and that all 
privilege claimed or exercised in exclusion of them, being 
wholly artificial, and for so much a derogation from the natural 
equality of mankind at large, ought to be some way or other 
exercised ultimately for their benefit. 

If this is true with regard to every species of political do- 
minion, and every description of commercial privilege, none 
of which can be original self-derived rights, or grants for the 
mere private benefit of the holders, then such rights, or privi- 
leges, or whatever else you choose to call them, are all in the 
strictest sense a trust ; and it is of the very essence of every 
trust to be rendered accountable; and even totally to cease, ' 
when it substantially varies from the purposes for which alone 
it could have a lawful existence. 

This I conceive. Sir, to be true of trusts of power vested in 
the highest hands, and of such as seem to hold of no human 
creature. But about the apphcation of this principle to subor- 
dinate derivative trusts, I do not see how a controversy can be 
maintained. To whom then would I make the East India 
company accountable? Why, to parliament, to be sure; to 
parliament, from whom their trust was derived ; to parliament, 
which alone is capable of comprehending the magnitude of its 
object, and its abuse ; and alone capable of an effectual legis- 
lative remedy. The very charter, which is held out to exclude 
parliament from correcting malversation with regard to the 
high trust vested in the company, is the very thing which at 
once gives a title and imposes a duty on us to interfere with 
effect, wherever power and authority originating from ourselves 
are perverted from their purposes, and become instruments of 
wrong and violence. 

If parliament. Sir, had nothing to do with this charter, we 
might have some sort of Epicurean excuse to stand aloof, in- 
diflferent spectators of what passes in the company's name in 
India and in London. But if we are the very cause of the 
evil, we are in a special manner engaged to the redress ; and 
for us passively to bear wi,th oppressions committed under the 
sanction of our own authority, is in truth and reason for this 
house to be an active accomplice in the abuse. 

That the power notoriously, grossly abused has been bought 
from us is very certain. But this circumstance, which is urged 
against the bill, becomes an additional motive for our inter- 
ference ; lest we should be thought to have sold the blood of 
millions of men, for the base consideration of money. We 
sold, I admit, all that we had to sell ; that is, our authority, 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 199 

not our control. We had not a right to make a market of our 
duties. 

I ground myself therefore on this principle — that if the 
abuse is proved, the contract is broken; and we re-enter into 
all our rights ; that is, into the exercise of all our duties. Our 
own authority is indeed as much a trust originally, as the com- 
pany's authority is a trust derivatively ; and it is the use we 
make of the resumed power that must justify or condemn us in 
the resumption of it. When we have perfected the plan laid 
before us by the right honorable mover, the world wdll then see 
what it is we destroy, and what it is we create. By that test 
we stand or fall ; and by that test I trust that it will be found 
in the issue, that we are going to supersede a charter abused 
to the full extent of all the powers which it could abuse, and 
exercised in the plenitude of despotism, tyranny, and cor- 
ruption ; and that in one and the same plan, we provide a real 
chartered security for the rights of men cruelly violated under 
that charter. 

This bill, and those connected with it, are intended to form 
the magna charta of Hindostan. Whatever the treaty of 
Westphaha is to the liberty of the princes and free cities of the 
empire, and to the three religions there professed — Whatever 
the great charter, the statute of tallage, the petition of right, 
and the declaration of right, are to Great Britain, these bills 
are to the people of India. Of this benefit, I am certain, their 
condition is capable ; and when I know that they are capable 
of more, my vote shall most assuredly be for our giving to the 
full extent of their capacity of receiving ; and no charter of 
dominion shall stand as a bar in my way to their charter of 
safety and protection. 

The strong admission I have made of the company's rights 
(I am conscious of it) binds me to do a great deal. I do not pre- 
sume to condemn those who argue a priori, against the pro- 
priety of leaving such extensive pohtical powers in the hands 
of a company of merchants. I know much is, and much more 
may be, said against such a system. But, with my particular 
ideas and sentiments, I cannot go that way to work. I feel an 
insuperable reluctance in giving my hand to destroy any es- 
tablished institution of government, upon a theory, however , 
plausible it may be. My experience in fife teaches me nothing 
clear upon the subject. I have known merchants with the 
sentiments and the abihties of great statesmen ; and I have seen 
persons in the rank of statesmen, with the conceptions and 
characters of pedlars. Indeed, my observation has furnished 
me with nothing that is to be found in any habits of hfe or 
education, which tends wholly to disqualify men for the func- 



1 



200 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

tions of government, but that, by which the power of exer 
cising those functions is very frequently obtained, I mean a 
spirit and habits of low cabal and intrigue; which I have 
never, in one instance, seen united with a capacity for sound 
and manly policy. 

To justify us in taking the administration of their affairs out 
of the hands of the East India company, on my principles, I 
must see several conditions. 1st. The object affected by the 
abuse should be great and important. 2d. The abuse affecting 
this great object ought to be a great abuse. 3d. It ought to be 
habitual, and not accidental. 4th. It ought to be utterly in- 
curable in the body as it now stands constituted. All this 
ought to be made as visible to me as the light of the sun, be- 
fore I should strike off an atom of their charter. A right hon- 
orable gentleman has said, and said I think but once, and that 
very slightly (whatever his original demand for a plan might 
seem to require) that *' there are abuses in the company's gov- 
ernment." If that were all, the scheme of the mover of this 
bill, the scheme of his learned friend, and his own scheme of 
reformation (if he has any) are all equally needless. There 
are, and must be, abuses in all governments. It amounts to no 
more than a nugatory proposition. But before I consider of 
what nature these abuses are, of which the gentleman speaks 
so very lightly, permit me to recall to your recollection the map 
of the country which this abused chartered right affects. This 
I shall do, that you may judge whether in that map I can 
discover anything like the first of my conditions; that is, 
Wliether the object affected . by the abuse of the East India 
company's power be of importance sufficiently to justify the 
measure and means of reform applied to it in this bill. 

With very few, and those inconsiderable intervals, the Brit- 
ish dominion, either in the company's name, or in the names of 
princes absolutely dependent upon the company, extends from 
the mountains that separate India from Tartary, to cape Co- 
morin, that is, one-and-twenty degrees of latitude ! , 

In the northern parts it is a solid mass of land, about eight 
hundred miles in length, and four or five hundred broad. As 
you go southward, it becomes narrower for a space. It after- 
wards dilates ; but narrower or broader, you possess the whole 
eastern and north-eastern coast of that vast country, quite from 
the borders of Pegu. — Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, with Bena- 
res, (now unfortunately in our immediate possession,) measure 
161,978 square English miles; a territory considerably larger 
than the whole kingdom of France. Oude, with its dependent 
provinces, is 53,286 square miles, not a great deal less than 
England. The Carnatic, with Tanjore and the Circars, is 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 201 

65,948 square miles, very considerably larger than England ; 
and the whole of the company's dominions, comprehending 
Bombay and Salsette, amounts to 281,412 square miles; which 
forms a territory larger than any European dominion, Russia 
and Turkey excepted. Through all that vast extent of country 
there is not a man who eats a mouthful of rice but by permis- 
sion of the East India company. 

So far with regard to the extent. The population of this 
great empire is not easy to be calculated. When the countries, 
of which it is composed, came into our possession, they were 
all eminently peopled, and eminently productive ; though at that 
time considerably declined from their ancient prosperity. But 

since they are come into our hands ! ! However, if we 

make the period of our estimate immediately before the utter 
desolation of the Carnatic, and if w^e allow for the havoc 
which our government had even then made in these regions, 
we cannot, in my opinion, rate the population at much less than 
thirty millions of souls ; more than four times the number of 
persons in the island of Great Britain. 

My next inquiry to that of the number, is the quality and 
description of the inhabitants. This multitude of men does not 
consist of an abject and barbarous populace; much less of 
gangs of savages, like the Guaranies and Chiquitos, who wan- 
der on the waste borders of the river of Amazons, or the 
Plate ; but a people for ages civiUzed and cultivated ; cultiva- 
ted by all the arts of polished life, whilst we were yet in the 
woods. There, have been (and still the skeletons remain) 
princes once of great dignity, authority, and opulence. There, 
are to be found the chiefs of tribes and nations. There, is to 
be found an ancient and venerable priesthood, the depository of 
their laws, learning, and history, the guides of the people whilst 
living, and their consolation in death ; a nobility of great anti- 
quity and renown; a multitude of cities, not exceeded in popu- 
lation and trade by those of the first class in Europe ; merchants 
and bankers, individual houses of whom have once vied in 
capital with the bank of England ; whose credit had often sup- 
ported a tottering state, and preserved their governments in the 
midst of war and desolation ; millions of ingenious manufac- 
turers and mechanics ; millions of the most dihgent, and not 
the least intelligent, tillers of the earth. Here are to be found 
almost all the religions professed by men ; the Brarainical, the 
Mussulman, the Eastern and the Western Christian. 

If I were to take the whole aggregate of our possessions 
there, I should compare it, as the nearest parallel I can find, 
with the empire of Germany. Our immediate possessions J 
should compare with the Austrian dominions, and they would 

2 A 



202 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

not suffer in the comparison. The nabob of Oude might stand 
for the King of Prussia ; the nabob of Arcot I would compare, 
as superior in territory, and equal in revenue, to the elector of 
Saxony. Cheyt Sing, the rajah of Benares, might well rank 
with the prince of Hesse, at least ; and the rajah of Tanjore 
(though hardly equal in extent of dominion, superior in reve- 
nue) to the elector of Bavaria. The Polygars and the northern 
Zemindars, and other great chiefs, might well class with the 
rest of the princes, dukes, counts, marquises, and bishops in 
the empire ; all of whom I mention to honor, and surely with- 
out disparagement to any or all of those most respectable 
princes and grandees. 

All this vast mass, composed of so many orders and classes 
of men, is again infinitely diversified by manners, by religion, 
by hereditary employment, through all their possible combina- 
tions. This renders the handHng of India a matter in a high 
degree critical and delicate. But oh ! it has been handled 
rudely indeed. Even some of the reformers seem to have for- 
got that they had anything to do but to regulate the tenants of 
a manor, or the shopkeepers of the next county town. 

It is an empire of this extent, of this complicated nature, 
of this dignity and importance, that I have compared to Ger- 
many, and the German government ; not for an exact resem- 
blance, but as a sort of a middle term, by which India might 
be approximated to our understandings, and if possible to our 
feelings ; in order to awaken something of sympathy for the 
unfortunate natives, of which I am afraid we are not perfectly 
susceptible, whilst we look at this very remote object through 
a false and cloudy medium. 

My second condition, necessary to justify me in touching the , 
charter, is, Whether the company's abuse of their trust, with 
regard to this great object, be an abuse of great atrocity. I 
shall beg your permission to consider their conduct in two 
lights; first the political, and then the commercial. Their 
political conduct (for distinctness) I divide again into two 
heads ; the external, in which I mean to comprehend their con- 
duct in their federal capacity, as it relates to powers and states 
independent, or that not long since were such ; the other inter- 
nal, namely their conduct to the countries either immediately 
subject to the company, or to those who, under the apparent 
government of native sovereigns, are in a state of much lower, 
and much more miserable, than common subjection. 

The attention. Sir, which I wish to preserve to method will 
not be considered as unnecessary or affected. Nothing else 
can help me to selection out of the infinite mass of materials 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 203 

which have passed under my eye ; or can keep my mind steady 
to the great leading points I have in view. 

With regard therefore to the abuse of the external federal 
trust, I engage myself to you to make good these three posi- 
tions : — First, I say, that from mount Imaus, (or whatever else 
you call that large range of mountains that walls the northern 
frontier of India,) where it touches us in the latitude of twenty- 
nine, to Cape Comorin, in the latitude of eight, there is not 
a single prince, state, or potentate, great or small, in India, 
with whom they have come into contact, whom they have not 
sold. I say sold, though sometimes they have not been able to 
deliver according to their bargain. — Secondly, I say, that there 
is not a single treaty they have ever made, which they have not 
broken. — Thirdly, I say, that there is not a single prince or 
state, who ever put any trust in the company, who is not utterly 
ruined; and that none are in any degree secure or flourishing, 
but in the exact proportion to their settled distrust and irrecon- 
cilable enmity to this nation. 

• These assertions are universal. I say in the full sense 
universal. They regard the external and political trust only ; 
but I shall produce others fully equivalent in the internal. For 
the present, I shall content myself with explaining my meaning ; 
and if I am called on for proof whilst these bills are depending 
(which I believe I shall not) I will put my finger on the appen- 
dixes to the reports, or on papers of record in the house, or the 
committees, which I have distinctly present to my memory, 
and which I think I can lay before you at half an hour's 
warning. 

The first potentate sold by the company for money, was the 
Great Mogul — the descendant of Tamerlane. This high per- 
sonage, as high as human veneration can look at, is by every 
account amiable in his manners, respectable for his piety 
according to his mode, and accomplished in all the Oriental 
literature. All this and the title derived under his charter, to 
all that we hold in India, could not save him from the general 
sale. Money is coined in his name ; in his name justice is 
administered; he is prayed for in every temple through the 
countries we possess — But he was sold. 

It is impossible, Mr. Speaker, not to pause here for a moment, 
to reflect on the inconstancy of human greatness, and the 
stupendous revolutions that have happened in our age of won- 
ders. Could it be believed when I entered into existence, or 
when you, a younger man, were born, that on this day, in this 
house, we should be employed in discussing the conduct of 
those British subjects who had disposed of the power and 
person of the grand Mogul ? This is no idle speculation. Awful 



204 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH |H 

lessons are taught by it, and by other events, of which it is not 
yet too late to profit. 

This is hardly a digression ; but I return to the sale of the 
Mogul. Two districts, Corah, and Allahabad, out of his 
immense grants, were reserved as a royal demesne to the donor I 
of a kingdom, and the rightful sovereign of so many nations. — ' 
After withholding the tribute of 260,000/. a year, which the 
company was, by the charter they had received from this 
prince, under the most solemn obligation to pay, these districts 
were sold to his chief minister Sujah ul Dowlah ; and, what 
may appear to some the worst part of the transaction, these 
two districts were sold for scarcely two years' purchase. The 
descendant of Tamerlane now stands in need almost of the . 
common necessaries of life; and in this situation we do not ] 
even allow him, as bounty, the smallest portion of what we owe I 
him in justice. . I 

The next sale was that of the whole nation of the Rohillas, 
which the grand salesman, without a pretence of quarrel, and 
contrary to his own declared sense of duty and rectitude, sold 
to the same Sujah ul Dowlah. He sold the people to utter 
extirpattoTif for the sum of four hundred thousand pounds, i 
Faithfully was the bargain performed on our side. Hafiz j 
Rhamet, the most eminent of their chiefs, one of the bravest ! 
men of his time, and as famous throughout the East for the 
elegance of his Hterature, and the spirit of his poetical compo- 
sitions (by which he supported the name of Hafiz) as for his 
courage, was invaded with an army of an hundred thousand 
men, and an English brigade. This man at the head of inferior 
forces was slain valiantly fighting for his country. His head 
was cut off, and delivered for money to a barbarian. His wife 
and children, persons of that rank, were seen begging a handful 
of rice through the English camp. The whole nation, with 
inconsiderable exceptions, was slaughtered or banished. The 
country was laid waste with fire and sword ; and that land, 
distinguished above most others by the cheerful face of paternal 
government and protected labor, the chosen seat of cultivation 
and plenty, is now almost throughout a dreary desert, covered 
with rushes and briars, and jungles full of wild beasts. 

The British officer who commanded in the dehvery of the 
people thus sold, felt some compunction at his employment. 
He represented these enormous excesses to the president of 
Bengal, for which he received a severe reprimand from the 
civil governor ; and I much doubt whether the breach caused 
by the conflict, between the compassion of the mihtary and the 
firmness of the civil governor, be closed at this hour. 

In Bengal, Serajah Dowlah was sold to Mir Jafiier ; Mir 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 205 

Jaffier was sold to Mir Cossim ; and Mir Cossim was sold to 
Mir Jaffier again. The succession of Mir Jaffier was sold to 
his eldest son; — another son of Mir Jaffier, Mobarech ul 
Dowlah, was sold to his step-mother — The Maratta empire 
was sold to Rogaba ; and Rogaba was sold and delivered to the 
Peishwa of the Marattas. Both Rogaba and the Peishwa of 
the Marattas were offered to sale to the rajah of Berar. Scin- 
dia, the chief of Malva, was offered to sale to the same rajah ; 
and the Subah of the Decan was sold to the great trader Ma- 
homet Aii, nabob of Arcot. To the same nabob of Arcot they 
sold Hyder Ali and the kingdom of Mysore. To Mahomet Ali 
they twice sold the kingdom of Tanjore. To the same Maho- 
met Ah they sold at least twelve sovereign princes, called the 
Polygars. But to keep things even, the territory of Tinnivelly, 
belonging to their nabob, they would have sold to the Dutch ; 
and to conclude the account of sales, their great customer, the 
nabob of Arcot himself, and his lawful succession, has been sold 
to his second son. Amir ul Omrah, whose character, views, and 
conduct, are in the accounts upon your table. It remains with 
you whether they shall finally perfect this last bargain. 

All these bargains and sales were regularly attended with 
the waste and havoc of the country, always by the buyer, and 
sometimes by the object of the sale. This was explained to 
you by the honorable mover, when he stated the mode of paying 
debts due from the country powers to the company. An 
honorable gentleman, who now is not in his place, objected to his 
jumping near two thousand miles for an example. But the 
southern example is perfectly apphcable to the northern claim, 
as the northern is to the southern ; for, throughout the whole 
space of these two thousand miles, take your stand where you 
will, the proceeding is perfectly uniform, and what is done in 
one part will apply exactly to the other. 

My second assertion is, that the company never has made a 
treaty which they have not broken. This position is so con- 
nected with that of the sales of provinces and kingdoms, with 
the negotiation of universal distraction in every part of India, 
that a very minute detail may well be spared on this point. It 
has not yet been contended, by any enemy to the reform, that 
they have observed any public agreement. When I hear that 
they have done so in any one instance (which hitherto, I con- 
fess, I never heard alleged) I shall speak to the particular treaty. 
The governor general has even amused himself and the court 
of directors in a very singular letter to that board, in which he 
admits he has not been very delicate with regard to public 
faith ; and he goes so far as to state a regular estimate of the 
sums which the company would have lost, or never acquiried, 

18 



206 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

if the rigid ideas of public faith entertained by his colleagues 
had been observed. The learned gentleman over against me 
has indeed saved me much trouble. On a former occasion, he 
obtained no small credit, for the clear and forcible manner in 
which he stated what we have not forgot, and I hope he has 
not forgot, that universal systematic breach of treaties which 
had made the British faith proverbial in the East. 

It only remains, Sir, for me just to recapitulate some heads. — 
The treaty with the mogul, by which we stipulated to pay him 
260,000/. annually, was broken. This treaty they have broken, 
and not paid him a shilling. They broke their treaty with him, 
in which they stipulated to pay 400,000/. a year to the soubah 
of Bengal. They agreed with the mogul, for services admitted 
to have been performed, to pay Nudjif Cawn a pension. They 
broke this article with the rest, and stopped also this small pen- 
sion. They broke their treaties with the Nizam, and with 
Hyder Ali. As to the Marattas, they had so many cross trea- 
ties with the states general of that nation, and with each of the 
chiefs, that it was notorious that no one of these agreements 
could be kept without grossly violating the rest. It was ob- 
served, that if the terms of these several treaties had been kept, 
two British armies would at one and the same time have met in 
the field to cut each other's throats. The wars which desolate 
India, originated from a most atrocious violation of pubhc faith 
on our part. In the midst of profound peace, the company's 
troops invaded the Maratta territories, and surprised the island 
and fortress of Salsette. The Marattas nevertheless yielded to 
a treaty of peace, by which solid advantages were procured to 
the company. But this treaty, like every other treaty, was 
soon violated by the company. Again the company invaded 
the Maratta dominions. The disaster that ensued gave occa- 
sion to a new treaty. The whole army of the company was 
obliged, in effect, to surrender to this injured, betrayed, and 
insulted people. Justly irritated, however, as they were, the 
terms which they prescribed were reasonable and moderate; 
and their treatment of their captive invaders of the most dis- 
tinguished humanity. But the humanity of the Marattas was 
of no power whatsoever to prevail on the company to attend to 
the observance of the terms dictated by their moderation. The 
war was renewed with greater vigor than ever ; and such was 
their insatiable lust of plunder, that they never would have 
given ear to any terms of peace, if Hyder Ali had not broke 
through the Gauts, and rushing like a torrent into the Carnatic, 
swept away everything in his career. This was in consequence 
of that confederacy, which by a sort of miracle united the most 
discordant powers for our destruction, as a nation in which no 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 207 

other could put any trust, and who were the declared enemies 
of the human species. 

My third assertion, relative to the abuse made of the right 
of war and peace is, that there are none who have ever con- 
fided in us who have not been utterly ruined. The examples 
I have given of Ragonaut Row, of Guickwar, of the rana of 
Gohud, are recent. There is proof more than enough in the 
condition of the mogul ; in the slavery and indigence of the 
nabob of Oude ; the exile of the rajah of Benares ; the beggary 
of the nabob of Bengal ; the undone and captive condition of 
the rajah and kingdom of Tanjore ; the destruction of the Poly- 
gars; and lastly, in the destruction of the nabob of Arcot 
himself, who, when his dominions were invaded, was found 
entirely destitute of troops, provisions, stores, and (as he asserts) 
of money, being a million in debt to the company, and four 
millions to others: the many millions which he had exerted 
from so many extirpated princes and their desolated countries 
having (as he has frequently hinted) been expended for the 
ground-rent of his mansion-house in an alley in the suburbs of 
Madras. Compare the condition of all these princes with the 
power and authority of all the Maratta states ; with the inde- 
pendence and dignity of the Soubah of the Decan; and the 
mighty strength, the resources, and the manly struggle of Hyder 
Ah ; and then the house will discover the effects on every power 
in India, of an easy confidence, or of a rooted distrust in the 
faith of the company. 

These are some of my reasons, grounded on the abuse of the 
external political trust of that body, for thinking myself not 
only justified, but bound, to declare against those chartered 
rights which produce so many wrongs. I should deem myself 
the wickedest of men, if any vote of_ mine could contribute to 
the continuance of so great an evil. 

Now, Sir, according to the plan I proposed, I shall take notice 
of the company's internal government, as it is exercised first 
on the dependent provinces, and then as it affects those under 
the direct and immediate authority of that body. And here, 
Sir, before I enter into the spirit of their interior government, 
permit me to observe to you, upon a few of the many lines of 
difference which are to be found between the vices of the 
company's government, and those of the conquerors who pre- 
ceded us in India ; that we may be enabled a little the better to 
see our way in an attempt to the necessary reformation. 

The several irruptions of Arabs, Tartars and Persians, into 
India were, for the greater part, ferocious, bloody, and wasteful 
in the extreme : our entrance into the dominion of that country, 
was, as generally, with small comparative effusion of blood ; 



208 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

being introduced by various frauds and delusions, and by taking 
advantage of the incurable, blind, and senseless animosity, which 
the several country powers bear towards each other, rather 
than by open force. But the difference in favor of the first 
conquerors is this ; the Asiatic conquerors very soon abated of 
their ferocity, because they naade the conquered country their 
own. They rose or fell with the rise or fall of the territory 
they lived in. Fathers there deposited the hopes of their pos- 
terity ; and children there beheld the nnonuments of their fathers. 
Here their lot was finally cast ; and it is the natural wish of 
all, that their lot should not be cast in a bad land. Poverty, 
sterility, and desolation, are not a recreating prospect to the 
eye of man ; and there are very few who can bear to grow 
old among the curses of a whole people. If their passion or 
their avarice drove the Tartar lords to acts of rapacity or 
tyranny, there was time enough, even in the short life of man, 
to bring round the ill effects of an abuse of power upon the 
power itself. If hoards were made by violence and tyranny, 
they were still domestic hoards ; and domestic profusion, or the 
rapine of a more powerful and prodigal hand, restored them to the 
people. With many disorders, and with few political checks upon 
power, nature had still fair play ; the sources of acquisition were 
not dried up ; and therefore the trade, the manufactures, and the 
commerce of the country flourished. Even avarice and usury 
itself operated, both for the preservation and the employment 
of national wealth. The husbandman and manufacturer paid 
heavy interest, but then they augmented the fund from whence 
they were again to borrow. Their resources were dearly 
bought, but they were sure ; and the general stock of the com- 
munity grew by the general effort. 

But under the English government all this order is reversed. 
The Tartar invasion was mischievous ; but it is our protection 
that destroys India. It was their enmity, but it is our friend- 
ship. Our conquest there, after twenty years, is as crude as 
it was the first day. The natives scarcely know what it is to 
see the gray head of an Englishman. Young men (boys almost) 
govern there, without society, and without sympathy with the 
natives. They have no more social habits with the people, than 
if they still resided in England ; nor, indeed, any species of 
intercourse but that which is necessary to making a sudden 
fortune, with a view to a remote settlement. Animated with 
all the avarice of age, and all the impetuosity of youth, they 
roll in one after another ; wave after wave ; and there is nothing j 
before the eyes of the natives but an endless, hopeless prospect 
of new flights of birds of prey and passage, with appetites 
continually renewing for a food that is continually wasting. 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 209 

Every rupee of profit made by an Englishman, is lost for ever 
to India. With us are no retributory superstitions, by which 
a foundation of charity compensates, through ages, to the poor, 
for the rapine and injustice of a day. With us, no pride erects 
stately monuments which repair the mischiefs which pride had 
produced, and which adorn a country out of its own spoils. 
England has erected no churches, no hospitals, no palaces, no 
schools ; England has built no bridges, made no high roads, cut 
no navigations, dug out no reservoirs. Every other conqueror 
of every other description has left some monument, either of 
state or beneficence, behind him. Were we to be driven out 
of India this day, nothing would remain, to tell that it had been 
possessed, during the inglorious period of our dominion, by any- 
thing better than the ouran-outang or the tiger. 

There is nothing in the boys we send to India worse, than in 
the boys whom we are whipping at school, or that we see trail- 
ing a pike, or bending over a desk at home. But as Enghsh 
youth in India drink the intoxicating draught of authority and 
dominion before their heads are able to bear it, and as they are 
full grown in fortune long before they are ripe in principle, 
neither nature nor reason have any opportunity to exert them- 
selves for remedy of the excesses of their premature power. 
The consequences of their conduct, which in good minds (and 
many of theirs are probably such) might produce penitence or 
amendment, are unable to pursue the rapidity of their flight. 
Their prey is lodged in England ; and the cries of India are 
given to seas and winds, to be blown about, in every breaking 
up of the monsoon, over a remote and unhearing ocean. In 
India, all the vices operate by which sudden fortune is acquired ; 
in England are often displayed by the same persons, the virtues 
which dispense hereditary wealth. Arrived in England, the 
destroyers of the nobility and gentry of a whole kingdom will 
find the best company in this nation, at a board of elegance and 
hospitality. Here the manufacturer and husbandman will bless 
the just and punctual hand that in India has torn the cloth from 
the loom, or wrested the scanty portion of rice and salt from 
the peasant of Bengal, or wrung from him the very opium in 
w^hich he forgot his oppressions and his oppressor. They marry 
into your families ; they enter into your senate ; they ease your 
estates by loans ; they raise their value by demands ; they cherish 
and protect your relations, which lie heavy on your patronage ; 
and there is scarcely a house in the kingdom that does not feel 
some concern and interest that makes all reform of our eastern 
government appear ofiicious and disgusting ; and on the whole, 
a most discouraging attempt. In such an attempt you hurt those 
who are able to return kindness, or to resent injury. If you 

2B 



210 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

succeed, you save those who cannot so much as give you 
thanks. All these things show the difficulty of the work we have 
on hand : but they show its necessity too. Our Indian govern- 
ment is in its best state a grievance. It is necessary that the 
correctives should be uncommonly vigorous ; and the work of 
men, sanguine, warm, and even impassioned in the cause. But 
it is an arduous thing to plead against abuses of a power which 
originates from your own country, and affects those whom we 
are used to consider as strangers. 

I shall certainly endeavor to modulate myself to this temper; 
though I am sensible that a cold style of describing actions which 
appear to me in a very affecting light, is equally contrary to the 
justice due to the people, and to all genuine human feelings 
about them. I ask pardon of truth and nature for this compliance. 
But I^hall be very sparing of epithets either to persons or things. 
It has been said (and, with regard to one of them, with truth) 
that Tacitus and Machiavel, by their cold way of relating 
enormous crimes, have in some sort appeared not to disapprove 
them ; that they seem a sort of professors of the art of tyranny, 
and that they corrupt the minds of their readers, by not express- 
ing the detestation and horror that naturally belong to horrible 
and detestable proceedings. But we are in general, Sir, so little 
acquainted with Indian details ; the instruments of oppression 
under which the people suffer are so hard to be understood ; 
and even the very names of the sufferers are so uncouth and 
strange to our ears, that it is very difficult for our sympathy to 
fix upon these objects. I am sure that some of us have come 
down stairs from the committee-room, with impressions on our 
minds, which to us were the inevitable results of our discoveries, 
yet if we should venture to express ourselves, in the proper 
language of our sentiments, to other gentlemen, not at all pre- 
pared to enter into the cause of them, nothing could appear 
more harsh and dissonant, more violent and unaccountable, than 
our language and behavior. All these circumstances are not, 
I confess, very favorable to the idea of our attempting to govern 
India at all. But there we are ; there we are placed by the 
Sovereign Disposer ; and we must do the best we can in our 
situation. The situation of man is the preceptor of his duty. 

Upon the plan which I laid down, and to which I beg leave 
to return, I was considering the conduct of the company to 
those nations which are indirectly subject to their authority. 
The most considerable of the dependent princes is the nabob 
of Oude. My right honorable friend, to whom we owe the 
remedial bills on your table, has already pointed out to you, in 
one of the reports, the condition of that prince, and as it stood 
in the time alluded to. I shall only add a few circumstances 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 211 

that may tend to awaken some sense of the manner in which 
the condition of the people is affected by that of the prince, and 
involved in it ; and to show you, that when we talk of the suf- 
ferings of princes, we do not lament the oppression of indi- 
viduals ; . and that in these cases the high and the low suffer 
together. 

In the year 1779, the nabob of Oude represented, through 
the British resident at his court, that the number of company's 
troops stationed in his dominions was a main cause of his dis- 
tress ; and that all those which he was not bound by treaty to 
maintain should be withdrawn, as they had greatly diminished 
his revenue, and impoverished his country. 

It was now to be seen what steps the governor-general and 
council took for the relief of this distressed country, long 
laboring under the vexations of men, and now stricken by the 
hand of God. The case of a general famine is known to relax the 
severity even of the most rigorous government. — Mr. Hastings 
does not deny, or show the least doubt of the fact. The repre- 
sentation is humble, and almost abject. On this representation 
from a great prince of the distress of his subjects, Mr. Hastings 
falls into a violent passion ; such (as it seems) would be unjusti- 
fiable in any one who speaks of any part of his conduct. He 
declares, " that the demands, the tone, in which they were 
asserted, and the season in which they were made, are all 
equally alarming, and appear to him to require an adequate 
degree of firmness in this board, in opposition to them." He 
proceeds to deal out very unreserved language, on the person 
and character of the nabob and his ministers. He declares, 
that in a division between him and the nabob, " the strongest must 
decide" With regard to the urgent and instant necessity, 
from the failure of the crops, he says, *' that perhaps expedients 
may he found for affording a gradual relief from the burthen of 
which he so heavily complains, and it shall be my endeavor to 
seek them out :" and lest he should be suspected of too much 
haste to alleviate sufferings, and to remove violence, he says, 
" that these must be gradually applied, and their complete effect 
may be distant; and this I conceive is all he can claim of right." 

Here, Sir, is much heat and passion ; but no more considera- 
tion of the distress of the country, from a failure of the means 
of subsistence, and (if possible) the worse evil of an useless 
and Hcentious soldiery, than if they w^ere the most contempti- 
ble of all trifles. A letter is written in consequence, in such a 
style of lofty despotism, as I believe has hitherto been unex- 
ampled and unheard of in the records of the East. The troops 
were continued. The gradual relief, whose effect was to be so 



212 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

distant, has never been substantially and beneficially applied — 
and the country is ruined. 

The invariable course of the company's policy is this : either 
they set up some prince too odious to maintain himself without 
the necessity of their assistance ; or they soon render him 
odious, by making him the intrument of their government. In 
that case troops are bountifully sent to him to maintain his 
authority. That he should have no want of assistance, a civil 
gentleman, called a resident, is kept at his court, who, under 
pretence of providing duly for the pay of these troops, gets 
assignments on the revenue into his hands. Under his provi- 
dent management, debts soon accumulate ; new assignments 
are made for these debts ; until, step by step, the whole revenue, 
and with it the whole power of the country, is delivered into 
his hands. The military do not behold without a virtuous 
emulation the moderate gains of the civil department. They 
feel that, in a country driven to habitual rebellion by the civil 
government, the military is necessary ; and they will not permit 
their services to go unrewarded. Tracts of country are de- 
livered over to their discretion. Then it is found proper to 
convert their commanding officers into farmers of revenue. 
Thus between the well-paid civil, and well-rewarded military 
establishment, the situation of the natives may be easily con- 
jectured. The authority of the regular and lawful government 
is everywhere and in every point extinguished. Disorders and 
violences arise; they are repressed by other disorders and 
other violences. Wherever the collectors of the revenue, and 
the farming colonels and majors move, ruin is about them, 
rebellion before and behind them. The people in crowds fly 
out of the country ; and the frontier is guarded by lines of 
troops, not to exclude an enemy, but to prevent the escape of 
the inhabitants. 

By these means, in the course of not more than four or five 
years, this once opulent and flourishing country, which, by the 
accounts given in the Bengal consultations, yielded more than 
three-score of Sicca rupees, that is, above three millions ster- 
ling annually, is reduced, as far as I can discover, in a matter 
purposely involved in the utmost perplexity, to less than one 
million three hundred thousand pounds, and that exacted by 
every mode of rigor that can be devised. To complete the 
business, most of the wretched remnants of this revenue are 
mortgaged, and delivered into the hands of the usurers at 
Benares (for there alone are to be found some lingering remains 
of the ancient wealth of these regions) at an interest of near 
thirty per cent, per annum. 

The revenues in this manner faihng, they seized upon the 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 213 

estates of every person of eminence in the country, and under 
the name of resumption, confiscated their property. I wish, 
Sir, to be understood universally and literally, v^hen I assert, 
that there is not left one man of property and substance for his 
rank, in the whole of these provinces, in provinces which are 
nearly the extent of England and Wales taken together. Not 
one landholder, not one banker, not one merchant, not one even 
of those who usually perish last, the ultimum moriens in a 
ruined state, not one farmer of revenue. 

One country for a while remained, which stood as an island 
in the midst of the grand waste of the company's dominion. 
My right honorable friend, in his admirable speech on moving 
the bill, just touched the situation, the oflfences, and the punish- 
ment of a native prince, called Fizulla Khan. This man, by 
policy and force, had protected himself from the general extir- 
pation of the Rohilla chiefs. He was secured (if that were 
any security) by a treaty. It was stated to you, as it was 
stated by the enemies of that unfortunate man — " that the whole 
of his country is what the whole of the Rohillas was, cultivated 
Hke a garden, without one neglected spot in it." — Another ac- 
cuser says, " Fyzoolah Khan, though a bad soldier, [that is the 
true source of his misfortune] has approved himself a good 
aumil ; having, it is supposed, in the course of a few years, at 
least doubled the population and revenue of his country." — In 
another part of the correspondence he is charged with making 
his country an asylum for the oppressed peasants, who fly from 
the territories of Oude. The improvement of his revenue, 
arising from this single crime, (which Mr. Hastings considers 
as tantamount to treason,) is stated at a hundred and fifty 
thousand pounds a year. 

Dr. Swift somewhere says, that he who could make two 
blades of grass grow where but one grew before, was a greater 
benefactor to the human race than all the politicians that ever 
existed. This prince, who would have been deified by anti- 
tiquity, who would have been ranked with Osiris, and Bacchus, 
and Ceres, and the divinities most propitious to men, was, for 
those very merits, by name attacked by the company's govern- 
ment, as a cheat, a robber, a traitor. In the same breath in 
which he was accused as a rebel, he was ordered at once to 
furnish 5,000 horse. On delay, or (according to the technical 
phrase, when any remonstrance is made to them) " on evasion," 
he was declared a violator of treaties, and everything he had 
was to be taken from him. — Not one word, how^ever, of horse 
in this treaty. 

The territory of this Fizulla Khan, Mr. Speaker, is less than 
the county of Norfolk. It is an inland country, full seven hun- 



214 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

dred miles from any sea-port, and not distinguished for any one 
considerable branch of manufacture whatsoever. From this 
territory several very considerable sums had at several times 
been paid to the British resident. The demand of cavalry, 
v^ithout a shadoM^ or decent pretext of right, amounted to three 
hundred thousand a year more, at the lowest computation ; 
and it is stated, by the last person sent to negotiate, as a de- 
mand of little use, if it could be complied with ; but that the 
compliance was impossible, as it amounted to more than his 
territories could supply, if there had been no other demand 
upon him — three hundred thousand pounds a year from an 
inland country not so large as Norfolk ! 

The thing most extraordinary was to hear the culprit defend 
himself from the imputation of his virtues, as if they had been 
the blackest offences. He extenuated the superior cultivation 
of his country. He denied its population. He endeavored to 
prove that he had often sent back the poor peasant that sought 
shelter with him. — I can make no observation on this. 

After a variety of extortions and vexations, too fatiguing to 
you, too disgusting to me, to go through with, they found " that 
they ought to be in a better state to warrant forcible means ;" 
they therefore contented themselves with a gross sum of 150,000 
pounds for their present demand. They offered him indeed an 
indemnity fromi their exactions in future for three hundred thou- 
sand pounds more. But he refused to buy their securities; 
pleading (probably with truth) his poverty : but if the plea 
were not founded, in my opinion very wisely ; not choosing to 
deal any more in that dangerous commodity of the company's 
faith ; and thinking it better to oppose distress and unarmed 
obstinacy to uncoloured exaction, than to subject himself to be 
considered as a cheat, if he should make a treaty in the least 
beneficial to himself 

Thus they executed an exemplary punishment on Fizulla 
Khan for the culture of his country. But, conscious that the 
prevention of evils is the great object of all good regulation, 
they deprived him of the means of increasing that criminal 
cultivation in future, by exhausting his coffers ; and, that the 
population of his country should no more be a standing re- 
proach and libel on the company's government, they bound 
him, by a positive engagement, not to afford any shelter what- 
soever to the farmers and laborers who should seek refuge in 
his territories, from the exactions of the British residents in 
Oude. When they had done all this effectually, they gave him 
a full and complete acquittance from all charges of rebellion, 
or of any intention to rebel, or of his having originally had any 
interest in, or any means of rebellion. 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 215 

These intended rebellions are one of the company's standing 
resources. When money has been thought to be heaped up 
anywhere, its owners are universally accused of rebellion, 
until they are acquitted of their money and their treasons at 
once. The money once taken, all accusation, trial, and pun- 
ishment ends. It is so settled a resource, that I rather wonder 
how it comes to be omitted in the directors' account ; but I 
take it for granted this omission will be supplied in their next 
edition. 

The company stretched this resource to the full extent, 
when they accused two old women, in the remotest corner of 
India (who could have no possible view or motive to raise dis- 
turbances) of being engaged in rebelhon, with an intent to 
drive out the English nation, in whose protection, purchased 
by money and secured by treaty, rested the sole hope of their 
existence. But the company wanted money, and the old wo- 
men must be guilty of a plot. They were accused of rebellion, 
and they were convicted of wealth. Twice had great sums 
been extorted from them, and as often had the British faith 
guarantied the remainder. A body of British troops, with one 
of the military farmers general at their head, was sent to seize 
upon the castle in which these helpless women resided. Their 
chief eunuchs, who were their agents, their guardians, pro- 
tectors, persons of high rank according to the Eastern man- 
ners, and of great trust, were thrown into dungeons, to make 
them discover their hidden treasures; and there they lie at 
present. The lands assigned for the maintenance of the wo- 
men were seized and confiscated. Their jewels and effects 
were taken, and set up to a pretended auction in an obscure 
place, and bought at such a price as the gentlemen thought 
proper to give. No account has ever been transmitted of the 
articles or produce of this sale. What money was obtained 
is unknown, or what terms were stipulated for the maintenance 
of these despoiled and forlorn creatures ; for by some particu- 
lars it appears as if an engagement of the kind w^as made. 

I wish you, Sir, to advert particularly, in this transaction, 
to the quality and the numbers of the persons spoiled, and the 
instrument by whom that spoil was made. These ancient 
matrons, called the Begums, or Princesses, were of the first 
birth and quality in India, the one mother, the other wife, of 
the late nabob of Oude, Sujah Dowlah, a prince possessed of 
extensive and flourishing dominions, and the second man in 
the Mogul empire. This prince (suspicious, and not unjustly 
suspicious, of his son and successor) at his death committed 
his treasures and his family to the British faith. That family 
and household consisted of two thousand women; to which 



gl6 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

were added two other seraglios of near kindred, and said to 
be extremely numerous, and (as I am well informed) of about 
four-score of the nabob's children, with all the eunuchs, the an- 
cient servants, and a multitude of the dependants of his splen- 
did court. These were all to be provided, for present main- 
tenance and future establishment, from the lands assigned as 
dower, and from the treasures which he left to these matrons, 
in trust for the whole family. 

So far as to the objects of the spoil. The instrument chosen 
by Mr. Hastings to despoil the rehct of Sujah Dowlah was her 
own son^ the reigning nabob of Oude. It was the pious hand 
of a son that was selected to tear from his mother and grand- 
mother the provision of their age, the maintenance of his 
brethren, and of all the ancient household of his father. [Here 
a laugh from some young members] — The laugh is seasonable, 
and the occasion decent and proper. 

The women being thus disposed of, that is, completely de- 
spoiled, and pathetically lamented, Mr. Hastings at length re- 
collected the great object of his enterprise, which, during his 
zeal lest the officers and soldiers should lose any part of their 
reward, he seems to have forgot ; that is to say, " to draw 
from the rajah's guilt the means of relief to the company's dis- 
tresses." This was to be the strong-hold of his defence. This 
compassion to the company, he knew by experience would 
sanctify a great deal of rigor towards the natives. But the 
military had distresses of their own, which they considered 
first. Neither Mr. Hastings's authority, nor his supphcations, 
could prevail on them to assign a shilling to the claim he made 
on the part of the company. They divided the booty amongst 
themselves. Driven from his claim, he was reduced to petition 
for the spoil as a loan. But the soldiers were too wise to ven- 
ture as a loan, what the borrower claimed as a right. In de- 
fiance of all authority, they shared among themselves about 
two hundred thousand pounds sterHng, besides what had been 
taken from the women. 

In all this there is nothing wonderful. We may rest assured, 
that when the maxims of any government estabhsh among its 
resources extraordinary means, and those exerted with a 
strong hand, that strong hand will provide those extraordinary 
means for itself. Whether the soldiers had reason or not (per- 
haps much might be said for them,) certain it is, the military 
discipline of India was ruined from that moment ; and the 
same rage for plunder, the same contempt of subordination, 
which blasted all the hopes of extraordinary means from your 
strong hand at Benares, have very lately lost you an army in 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 217 

Mysore. This is visible enough from the accounts in the last 
Gazette. 

It is only to complete the view I proposed of the conduct of 
the company, with regard to the dependent provinces, that I 
shall say any thing at all of the Carnatic, which is the scene, 
if possible, of greater disorder than the northern provinces. 
Perhaps it were better to say of this centre and metropolis of 
abuse, whence all the rest in India and in England diverge ; 
from whence they are fed and methodized, what was said of 
Carthage — de Carthagine satius est silere quam parum dicere. 
This country, in all its denominations, is about 46,000 square 
miles. It may be affirmed universally, that not one person of 
substance or property, landed, commercial or moneyed, except- 
ing two or three bankers, who are necessary deposits and dis- 
tributors of the general spoil, is left in all that region. In that 
country the moisture, the bounty of Heaven, is given but at a 
certain season. Before the era of our influence, the industry 
of man carefully husbanded that gift of God. The Gentoos 
preserved, with a provident and religious care, the precious 
deposit of the periodical rain in reservoirs, many of them 
works of royal grandeur; and from these, as occasion de- 
manded, they fructified the whole country. To maintain these 
reservoirs, and to keep up an annual advance to the cultivators, 
for seed and cattle, formed a principal object of the piety and 
poKcy of the priests and rulers of the Gentoo religion. 

This object required a command of money ; and there was 
no pollam, or castle, which in the happy days of the Carnatic 
was without some hoard of treasure, by which the governors 
were enabled to combat with the irregularity of the seasons, 
and to resist or to buy off the invasion of an enemy. In all the 
cities were multitudes of merchants and bankers, for all occa- 
sions of moneyed assistance ; and on the other hand, the native 
princes were in condition to obtain credit from them. The 
manufacturer was paid by the return of commodities, or by 
imported money, and not, as at present, in the taxes that had 
been originally exacted from his industry. In aid of casual 
distress, the country was full of choultries, which were inns 
and hospitals, where the traveller and the poor were reheved. 
All ranks of people had their place in the public concern, and 
their share in the common stock and common prosperity ; but 
the chartered rights of men, and the right which it was thought 
proper to set up in the nabob of Arcot, introduced a new sys- 
tem. It was their policy to consider hoards of money as 
crimes ; to regard moderate rents as frauds on the sovereign ; 
and to view, in the lesser princes, any claim of exemption from 
more than settled tribute, as an act of rebeUion. Accordingly 

2 C 19 



218 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

all the castles were, one after the other, plundered and de- 
stroyed. The native princes were expelled ; the hospitals fell to 
ruin ; the reservoirs of water went to decay ; the merchants, 
bankers, and manufacturers disappeared ; and sterility, indi- 
gence, and depopulation, overspread the face of these once 
flourishing provinces. 

The company was very early sensible of these mischiefs, 
and of their true cause. They gave precise orders " that the 
native princes, called polygars, should not he extirpated.''^ — 
" The rebellion [so they chose to call it] of the polygars, may 
(they fear) with too much justice, be attributed to the mal- 
administration of the nabob's collectors :" — They observe with 
concern, that their " troops have been put to disagreeable ser- 
vices." They might have used a stronger expression without 
impropriety. But they make amends in another place. Speak- 
ing of the polygars, the directors say, that " it was repugnant 
to humanity to foixe them to such dreadful extremities as they 
underwent :" That some examples of severity might be neces- 
sary, " when they fell into the nabob's hands," and not by the 
destruction of the country: "That they fear his . government is 
none of the mildest; and that there is great oppression in collect- 
ing his revenues." They state, that the wars in which he has 
involved the Carnatic, had been a cause of its distresses : " that 
these distresses have been certainly great ; but those by the 
nabob's oppressions they believe to be greater than all" Pray, 
Sir, attend to the reason for their opinion that the government 
of this their instrument is more calamitous to the country than 
the ravages of war. — Because, say they, his oppressions are 
" without intermission. — The other are temporary ; by all which 
oppressions we believe the nabob has great wealth in store." 
From this store neither he nor they could derive any advantage 
whatsoever upon the invasion of Hyder Ali in the hour of their 
greatest calamity and dismay. 

It is now proper to compare these declarations with the 
company's conduct. The principal reason which they assigned 
against the extirpation of the polygars was, that the weavers 
were protected in their fortresses. They might have added, 
that the company itself, which stung them to death, had been 
warmed in the bosom of these unfortunate princes : for, on the 
taking of Madras by the French, it was in their hospitable pol- 
lams, that most of the inhabitants found refuge and protection. 
But, notwithstanding all these orders, reasons, and declarations, 
they at length gave an indirect sanction, and permitted the use 
of a very direct and irresistible force, to measures which they 
had, over and over again, declared to be false policy, cruel, 
inhuman, and oppressive. Having, however, forgot all atten- 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 219 

tion to the princes and the people, they remembered that they 
had some sort of interest in the trade of the country ; and it is 
matter of curiosity to observe the protection which they af- 
forded this their natural object. 

Full of anxious cares on this head, they direct, " that in re- 
ducing the polygars they (their servants) v^ere to be cautious, 
not to deprive the weavers and manufacturers of the protection 
they often met with in the strong-holds of the polygar coun- 
tries ;" — and they write to their instrument, the nabob of Arcot, 
concerning these poor people, in a most pathetic strain. " We 
entreat your excellency (say they) in particular, to make the 
manufacturers the object of your tenderest care ; particularly 
when you root out the polygars, you do not deprive the weavers 
of the protection they enjoyed under them.^^ When they root out 
the protectors in favor of the oppressor, they show themselves 
religiously cautious of the rights of the protected. When they 
extirpate the shepherd and the shepherd's dog, they piously 
recommend the helpless flock to the mercy, and even to the 
tenderest care, of the wolf. This is the uniform strain of their 
policy, strictly forbidding, and at the same time strenuously 
encouraging and enforcing, every measure that can ruin and 
desolate the country committed to their charge. After giving 
the company's idea of the government of this their instrument, 
it may appear singular, but it is perfectly consistent with their 
system, that, besides wasting for him, at two different times, 
the most exquisite spot upon earth, Tanjore, and all the adja- 
cent countries, they have even voluntarily put their own territory, 
that is, a large and fine country adjacent to Madras, called 
their jaghire, wholly out of their protection; and have con- 
tinued to farm their subjects, and their duty towards these sub- 
jects, to that very nabob, whom they themselves constantly 
represent as an habitual oppressor, and a relentless tyrant. 
This they have done without any pretence of ignorance of the 
objects of oppression for which this prince has thought fit to 
become their renter ; for he has again and again told them, that 
it is for the sole purpose of exercising authority he holds the 
jaghire lands ; and he affirms (and I believe with truth) that he 
pays more for that territory than the revenues yield. This 
deficiency he must make up from his other territories; and 
thus, in order to furnish the means of oppressing one part of 
the Carnatic, he is led to oppress all the rest. 

The house perceives that the livery of the company's gov- 
ernment is uniform. I have described the condition of the 
countries indirectly, but most substantially, under the com- 
pany's authority. And now I ask, whether, with this map of 
misgovernment before me, I can suppose myself bound by my 



220 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

vote to continue, upon any principles of pretended public faith, 
the management of these countries in those hands ? If I kept 
such a faith, (which in reality is no better than sl fides latronum) 
with what is called the company, I must break the faith, the 
covenant, the solemn, original, indispensable oath, in which I 
am bound, by the eternal frame and constitution of things, to 
the whole human race. 

As I have dwelt so long on those who are indirectly under 
the company's administration, I will endeavor to be a little 
shorter upon the countries immediately under this charter gov- 
ernment. — These are the Bengal provinces. The condition of 
these provinces is pretty fully detailed in the sixth and ninth 
reports, and in their appendixes. I will select only such prin- 
ciples and instances as are broad and general. To your own 
thoughts I shall leave it, to furnish the detail of oppressions 
involved in them. I shall state to you, as shortly as I am able, 
the conduct of the company ; — 1st, towards the landed interests ; 
— next, the commercial interests ; — 3dly , the native government ; 
— and lastly, to their own government. 

Bengal, and the provinces that are united to it, are larger 
than the kingdom of France ; and once contained, as France 
does contain, a great and independent landed interest, com- 
posed of princes, of great lords, of a numerous nobility and 
gentry, of freeholders, of lower tenants, of religious communi- 
ties, and public foundations. So early as 1769, the company's 
servants perceived the decay into which these provinces had 
fallen under English administration, and they made a strong 
representation upon this decay, and what they apprehended to 
be the causes of it. Soon after this representation, Mr. Hast- 
ings became president of Bengal. Instead of administering a 
remedy to this melancholy disorder, upon the heels of a dread- 
ful famine, in the year 1772, the succor which the new president 
and the council lent to this afflicted nation was — shall I be 
believed in relating it ? — the landed interest of a whole king- 
dom, of a kingdom to be compared to France, w^as set up to 
public auction ! They set up (Mr. Hastings set up) the whole 
nobility, gentry, and freeholders, to the highest bidder. No 
preference was given to the ancient proprietors. They must 
bid against every usurer, every temporary adventurer, every 
jobber and schemer, every servant of every European, or they 
were obliged to content themselves, in lieu of their extensive 
domains, with their house, and such a pension as the state 
auctioneers thought fit to assign. In this general calamity, 
several of the first nobility thought (and in all appearance 
justly) that they had better submit to the necessity of this pen- 
sion, than continue, under the name of zemindars, the objects 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 221 

and instruments of a system, by which they ruined their tenants, 
and were ruined themselves. Another reform has since come 
upon the back of the first ; and a pension having been assigned 
to these unhappy persons, in heu of their hereditary lands, a 
new scheme of economy has taken place, and deprived them 
of that pension. 

The menial servants of Enghshmen, persons (to use the 
emphatical phrase of a ruined and patient eastern chief) ^^ whose 
fathers they would not have set with the dogs of their fiock^'' entered 
into their patrimonial lands. Mr. Hastings's banian was, after 
this auction, found possessed of territories yielding a rent of 
one hundred and forty thousand pounds a year. 

Such an universal proscription, upon any pretence, has few 
examples. Such a proscription, without even a pretence of 
delinquency, has none. It stands by itself. It stands as a 
monument to astonish the imagination, to confound the reason 
of mankind. I confess to you, when I first came to know this 
business in its true nature and extent, my surprise did a little 
suspend my indignation. I was in a manner stupefied by the 
desperate boldness of a few obscure young men, who, having 
obtained, by ways which they could not comprehend, a power 
of which they saw neither the purposes nor the limits, tossed 
about, subverted, and tore to pieces, as if it were in the gambols 
of a boyish unluckiness and malice, the most established rights, 
and the most ancient and most revered institutions, of ages and 
nations. Sir, I will not now trouble you with any detail with 
regard to what they have since done with these same lands and 
land-holders ; only to inform you, that nothing has been suffered 
to settle for two seasons together upon any basis ; and that the 
levity and inconstancy of these mock legislators were not the 
least afflicting parts of the oppressions suffered under their 
usurpation ; nor will anything give stability to the property of 
the natives, but an administration in England at once protecting 
and stable. The country sustains, almost every year, the mise- 
ries of a revolution. At present, all is uncertainty, misery, and 
confusion. There is to be found through these vast regions no 
longer one landed man, who is a resource for voluntary aid, or 
an object for particular rapine. Some of them were, not long 
since, great princes; they possessed treasures, they levied 
armies. There was a zemindar in Bengal (I forget his name) 
that, on the threat of an invasion, supplied the soubah of these 
provinces with the loan of a milHon sterling. The family at 
this day wants credit for a breakfast at the bazar. 

I am now come to my last condition, without which, for one, 
I will never readily lend my hand to the destruction of any 
estabhshed government; which is, That in its present state, 

19* 



222 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

the government of the East India company is absolutely incor- 
rigible. > 

Of this great truth I think there can be little doubt, after all 
that has appeared in this house. It is so very clear, that I must 
consider the leaving any power in their hands, and the deter- 
mined resolution to continue and countenance every mode and . 
every degree of peculation, oppression, and tyranny, to be one I 
and the same thing. I look upon that body as incorrigible, from 
the fullest consideration both of their uniform conduct, and their 
present real and virtual constitution. 

If they had not constantly been apprized of all the enormities 
committed in India under their authority ; if this state of things 
had been as much a discovery to them as it was to many of 
us ; we might flatter ourselves that the detection of the abuses 
would lead to their reformation. I wall go further : If the court 
of directors had not uniformly condemned every act which this 
house or any of its committees had condemned ; if the language 
in which they expressed their disapprobation against enormities 
and their authors had not been much more vehement and indig- \ 
nant than any ever used in this house, I should entertain some 
hopes. If they had not, on the other hand, as uniformly com- 
mended all their servants who had done their duty and obeyed 
their orders, as they had heavily censured those who rebelled ; 
I might say, These people have been in an error, and when _ 
they are sensible of it they will mend. But when I reflect on 
the uniformity of their support to the objects of their uniform 
censure ; and the state of insignificance and disgrace to which 
all of those have been reduced whom they approved ; and that 
even utter ruin and premature death have been among the fruits 
of their favor ; I must be convinced, that in this case, as in all 
others, hypocrisy is the only vice that never can be cured. 

Attend, I pray you, to the situation and prosperity of Ben- 
field, Hastings, and others of that sort. The last of these has t 
been treated by the company with an asperity of reprehension • 
that has no parallel. They lament, *' that the power of disposing 
of their property for perpetuity, should fall into such hands." 
Yet for fourteen years, with little interruption, he has governed 
all their affairs, of every description, with an absolute sway. 
He has had himself the means of heaping up immense wealth ; 
and, during that whole period, the fortunes of hundreds have 
depended on his smiles and frowns. He himself tells you he is 
encumbered with two hundred and fifty young gentlemen, some 
of them of the best families in England, all of whom aim at 
returning with vast fortunes to Europe in the prime of life. He 
has then two hundred and fifty of your children as his hostages 
for your good behavior; and loaded for years, as he has been, 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 223 

with the execrations of the natives, with' the censures of the 
court of directors, and struck and blasted with the resolutions 
of this house, he still maintains the most despotic power ever 
known in India. He domineers with an overbearing sway in 
the assembhes of his pretended masters ; and it is thought in a 
degree rash to venture to name his offences in this house, even 
as grounds of a legislative remedy. 

On the other hand, consider the fate of those who have met 
with the applauses of the directors. Colonel Monson, one of 
the best of men, had his days shortened by the applauses, 
destitute of the support, of the company. General Clavering, 
whose panegyric was made in every dispatch from England, 
whose hearse was bedewed with the tears, and hung round 
with the eulogies of the court of directors, burst an honest 
and indignant heart at the treachery of those who ruined him 
by their praises. Uncommon patience and temper supported 
Mr. Francis a while longer under the baneful influence of the 
commendation of the court of directors. His health however 
gave way at length ; and, in utter despair, he returned to Europe. 
At his return the doors of the India House were shut to this 
man, who had been the object of their constant admiration. 
He has indeed escaped with life, but he has forfeited all expec- 
tation of credit, consequence, party, and following. He may 
well say. Me nemo ministro fur erit, atque ideo nulli comes exeo. 
This man, whose deep reach of thought, whose large legislative 
conceptions, and whose grand plans of policy make the most 
shining part of our reports, from whence we have all learned 
our lessons, if we have learned any good ones ; this man, from 
whose materials those gentlemen who have least acknowledged 
it have yet spoken as from a brief; this man, driven from his 
employment, discountenanced by the directors, has had no 
other reward, and no other distinction, but that inward " sun- 
shine of the soul," which a good conscience can always bestow 
upon itself. He has not yet had so much as a good word, but 
from a person too insignificant to make any other return, for 
the means with which he has been furnished for performing his 
share of a duty which is equally urgent on us all. 

Add to this, that from the highest in place to the lowest, 
every British subject, who, in obedience to the company's or- 
ders, has been active in the discovery of peculations, has been 
ruined. They have been driven from India. When they made 
their appeal at home, they were not heard ; when they attempt- 
ed to return, they were stopped. No artifice of fraud, no vio- 
lence of power, has been omitted to destroy them in character 
as well as in fortune. 

Worse, far worse, has been the fate of the poor creatures, 



224 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

the natives of India, whom the hypocrisy of the company has 
betrayed into complaint of oppression, and discovery of pecu- 
lation. The first women in Bengal, the ranny of Rajeshahi, 
the ranny of Burdwan, the ranny of Amboa, by their weak 
and thoughtless trust in the company's honor and protection, 
are utterly ruined : the first of these women, a person of 
princely rank, and once of correspondent fortune, who paid 
above two hundred thousand a year quit-rent to the state, is, 
according to very credible information, so completely beggared 
as to stand in need of the relief of alms. Mahomed Reza 
Khan, the second Mussulman in Bengal, for having been dis- 
tinguished by the ill-omened honor of the countenance and 
protection of the court of directors, was, without the pretence 
of any inquiry whatsoever into his conduct, stripped of all his 
employments, and reduced to the lowest condition. His an- 
cient rival for power, the rajah Nundcomar, was, by an insult 
on everything which India holds respectable and sacred, hang- 
ed in the face of all his nation, by the judges you sent to pro- 
tect that people ; hanged for a pretended crime upon an ex post 
facto British act of parKament, in the midst of his evidence 
against Mr. Hastings. The accuser they saw hanged. The 
culprit, without acquittal or inquiry, triumphs on the ground 
of that murder : a murder not of Nundcomar only, but of all 
living testimony, and even of evidence yet unborn. From that 
time not a complaint has been heard from the natives against 
their governors. All the grievances of India have found a 
complete remedy. 

Men will not look to acts of parliament, to regulations, to 
declarations, to votes, and resolutions. No, they are not such 
fools. They will ask, what is the road to power, credit, wealth, 
and honors ? They will ask, what conduct ends in neglect, dis- 
grace, poverty, exile, prison and gibbet? These will teach 
them the course which they are to follow. It is your distribu- 
tion of these that will give the character and tone of your gov- 
ernment. All the rest is miserable grimace. 

When I accuse the court of directors of this habitual treach- 
ery, in the use of reward and punishment, I do not mean to in- 
clude all the individuals in that court. There have been, Sir, 
very frequently, men of the greatest integrity and virtue 
amongst them ; and the contrariety in the declarations and 
conduct of that court has arisen, I take it, from this : — That 
the honest directors have, by the force of matter of fact on the 
records, carried the reprobation of the evil measures of the 
servants in India. This could not be prevented, whilst these 
records stared them in the face ; nor were the dehnquents, 
either here or there, very solicitous about their reputation, as 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 225 

long as they were able to secure their power. The agreement 
of their partisans to censure them, blunted for a while the 
edge of a severe proceeding. It obtained for them a character 
of impartiality, which enabled them to recommend, with some 
sort of grace, what will always carry a plausible appearance, 
those treacherous expedients, called moderate measures. 
Whilst these were under discussion, new matter of complaint 
came over, which seemed to antiquate the first. The same 
circle was here trod round once more ; and thus through years 
they proceeded in a compromise of censure for punishment ; 
until, by shame and despair, one after another, almost every 
man, who preferred his duty to the company to the interest of 
their servants, has been driv^en from that court. 

This, Sir, has been their conduct ; and it has been the result 
of the alteration which was insensibly made in their constitu- 
tion. The change was made insensibly ; but it is now strong 
and adult, and as public and declared, as it is fixed beyond all 
power of reformation. So that there is none who hears me, 
that is not as certain as I am, that the company, in the sense 
in which it was formerly understood, has no existence. The 
question is not, what injury you may do to the proprietors of 
India stock; for there are no such men to be injured. If the 
active ruHng part of the company, who form the general court, 
who fill the offices, and direct the measures (the rest tell for 
nothing) were persons who held their stock as a means of their 
subsistence, who in the part they took were only concerned in 
the government of India, for the rise or fall of their dividend, 
it would be indeed a defective plan of policy. The interest of 
the people who are governed by them would not be their pri- 
mary object ; perhaps a very small part of their consideration 
at all. But then they might well be depended on, and perhaps 
more than persons in other respects preferable, for preventing 
the peculation of their servants to their own prejudice. Such 
a body would not easily have left their trade as a spoil to the 
avarice of those w^ho received their wages. But now things 
are totally reversed. The stock is of no value, whether it be 
the qualification of a director or proprietor ; and it is impos- 
sible that it should. A director's qualification may be worth 
about two thousand five hundred pounds — and the interest, at 
eight per cent, is about one hundred and sixty pounds a year. 
Of what value is that, whether it rise to ten, or fall to six, or 
to nothing, to him whose son, before he is in Bengal two 
months, and before he descends the steps of the council 
chamber, sells the grant of a single contract for forty thousand 
pounds ? Accordingly the stock is bought up in qualifications. 
The vote is not to protect the stock, but the stock is bought to 

2D 



226 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

acquire the vote ; and the end of the vote is to cover and sup- 
port, against justice, some man of povi^er who has made an ob- 
noxious fortune in India ; or to maintain in power those who 
are actually employing it in the acquisition of such a fortune ; 
and to avail themselves in return of his patronage, that he 
may shower the spoils of the east, " barbaric pearl and gold," 
on them, their families, and dependants. So that all the rela- 
tions of the company are not only changed, but inverted. The 
servants in India are not appointed by the directors, but the 
directors are chosen by them. The trade is carried on with 
their capitals. To them the revenues of the country are 
mortgaged. The seat of the supreme power is in Calcutta. 
The house in Leadenhall Street is nothing more than a 'change 
for their agents, factors, and deputies to meet in, to take care 
of their affairs, and support their interests ; and this so avow- 
edly, that we see the known agents of the delinquent servants 
marshalling and disciplining their forces, and the prime spokes- 
men in all their assemblies. 

I therefore conclude, what you all conclude, that this body, 
being totally perverted from the purposes of its institution, is 
utterly incorrigible ; and because they are incorrigible, both in 
conduct and constitution, power ought to be taken out of their 
hands; just on the same principles on which have been made 
all the just changes and revolutions of government that have 
taken place since the beginning of the world. 

I will now say a few words to the general principle of the 
plan which is set up against that of my right honorable friend. 
It is to re-commit the government of India to the court of di- 
rectors. Those who would commit the reformation of India 
to the destroyers of it, are the enemies to that reformation. 
They would make a distinction between directors and proprie- 
tors, which, in the present state of things, does not, cannot 
exist. But a right honorable gentleman says, he would keep 
the present government of India in the court of directors ; and 
would, to curb them, provide salutary regulations ; — wonderful ! 
That is, he would appoint the old offenders to correct the old 
offences ; and he would render the vicious and the foohsh wise 
and virtuous, by salutary regulations. He would appoint the 
wolf as guardian of the sheep ; but he has invented a curious 
muzzle, by which this protecting wolf shall not be able to open 
his jaws above an inch or two at the utmost. Thus his work 
is finished. But I tell the right honorable gentleman, that con- 
trolled depravity is not innocence ; and that it is not the labor 
of, delinquency in chains, that will correct abuses. Will these 
gentlemen of the direction animadvert on the partners of their 
own guilt? Never did a serious plan of amending of any old 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 227 

tyrannical establishment propose the authors and abettors of 
the abuses as the reformers of them. If the undone people of 
India see their old oppressors in confirmed power, even by the 
reformation, they will expect nothing but what they will cer- 
tainly feel, a continuance, or rather an aggravation, of all their 
former sufferings. They look to the seat of power, and to 
the persons who fill it; and they despise those gentlemen's 
regulations as much as the gentlemen do who talk of them. 

But there is a cure for everything. Take away, say they, 
the court of proprietors, and the court of directors will do their 
duty. Yes; as they have done it hitherto. That the evils in 
India have solely arisen from the court of proprietors, is sjrossly 
false. In many of them, the directors were heartily concur- 
ring ; in most of them, they were encouraging, and sometimes 
commanding ; in all, they were conniving. 

But who are to choose this well-regulated and reforming 
court of directors ? — Why, the very proprietors who are ex- 
cluded from all management, for the abuse of their power. 
They will choose, undoubtedly, out of themselves, men hke 
themselves ; and those who are most forward in resisting your 
authority, those who are most engaged in faction or interest 
with the delinquents abroad, will be the objects of their selec- 
tion. But gentlemen say, that when this choice is made, the 
proprietors are not to interfere in the measures of the directors, 
whilst those directors are busy in the control of their common 
patrons and masters in India. No, indeed, I believe they will 
not desire to interfere. They will choose those whom they 
know may be trusted, safely trusted, to act in strict conformity 
to their common principles, manners, measures, interests, and 
connexions. They will want neither monitor nor control. It 
is not easy to choose men to act in conformity to a public in- 
terest against their private : but a sure dependence may be had 
on those who are chosen to forward their private interest, at 
the expense of the public. But if the directors should slip, and 
deviate into rectitude, the punishment is in the hands of the 
general court, and it will surely be remembered to them at their 
next election. 

If the government of India wants no reformation; but gen- 
tlemen are amusing themselves with a theory, conceiving a 
more democratic or aristocratic mode of government for these 
dependencies, or if they are in a dispute only about patronage ; 
the -dispute is with me of so little concern, that I should not 
take the pains to utter an affirmative or negative to any propo- 
sition in it. If it be only for a theoretical amusement that they 
are to propose a bill ; the thing is at best frivolous and unne- 
cessary. But if the company's government is not only full of 



228 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

abuse, but is one of the most corrupt and destructive tyrannies, 
that probably ever existed in the vs^orld, (as I am sure it is,) 
what a cruel mockery v^ould it be in me, and in those who 
think like me, to propose this kind of remedy for this kind of 
evil! 

I now come to the third objection. That this bill will increase 
the influence of the crown. An honorable gentleman has 
demanded of me, whether I was in earnest when I proposed to 
this house a plan for the reduction of that influence. Indeed, 
Sir, I was much, very much, in earnest. My heart was deeply 
concerned in it ; and I hope the public has not lost the effect of 
it. How far my judgment was right, for what concerned per- 
sonal favor and consequence to myself, I shall not presume to 
determine ; nor is its effect upon me of any moment. But as to 
this bill, whether it increases the influence of the crown, or not, 
is a question I should be ashamed to ask. If I am not able to 
correct a system of oppression and tyranny, that goes to the 
utter ruin of thirty millions of my fellow-creatures and feflow- 
subjects, but by some increase to the influence of the crown, I 
am ready here to declare, that I, who have been active to 
reduce it, shall be at least as active and strenuous to restore it 
again. I am no lover of names ; I contend for the substance 
of good and protecting government, let it come from what 
quarter it will. 

But I am not obliged to have recourse to this expedient. 
Much, very much the contrary. I am sure that the influence 
of the crown will by no means aid a reformation of this kind ; 
which can neither be originated nor supported, but by the 
uncorrupt public virtue of the representatives of the people of 
England. Let it once get into the ordinary course of adminis- 
tration, and to me all hopes of reformation are gone. I am far 
from knowing or believing, that this bill will increase the influ- 
ence of the crown. We all know, that the crown has ever had 
some influence in the court of directors ; and that it has been 
extremely increased by the acts of 1773 and 1780. The gen- 
tlemen who, as a part of their reformation, propose " a more 
active control on the part of the crown," which is to put the 
directors under a secretary of state, specially named for that 
purpose, must know, that their project will increase it further. 
But that old influence has had, and the new will have, incurable 
inconveniences which cannot happen under the parliamentary 
estabhshment proposed in this bill. An honorable gentleman, 
not now in his place, but who is well acquainted with the India 
company, and by no means a friend to this bill, has told you, 
that a ministerial influence has always been predominant in 
that body ; and that to make the directors pliant to their pur- 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 229 

poses, ministers generally caused persons meanly qualified to be 
chosen directors. According to his idea, to secure subservi- 
ency, they submitted the company's affairs to the direction of 
incapacity. This was to ruin the company, in order to govern 
it. This was certainly influence in the very worst form in 
which it could appear. At best it was clandestine and irre- 
sponsible. Whether this was done so much upon system as 
that gentleman supposes, I greatly doubt. But such in effect 
the operation of government on that court unquestionably was ; 
and such, under a similar constitution, it ' will be for ever. 
Ministers must be wholly removed from the management of 
the affairs of India, or they will have an influence in its pa- 
tronage. The thing is inevitable. Their scheme of a new 
secretary of state, "with a more vigorous control," is not 
much better than a repetition of the measure which we know 
by experience will not do. Since the year 1773 and the year 
1780, the company has been under the controfof the secretary 
of state's office, and we had then three secretaries of state. If 
more than this is done, then they annihilate the direction which 
they pretend to support ; and they augment the influence of the 
crown, of whose growth they affect so great a horror. But 
in truth this scheme of reconciling a direction really and truly 
deliberative, with an office really and substantially controlling, 
is a sort of machinery that can be kept in order but a very 
short time. Either the directors will dwindle into clerks, or 
the secretary of state, as hitherto has been the course, will 
leave everything to them, often through design, often through 
neglect. If both should affect actiyity, collision, procrastina- 
tion, delay, and in the end, utter confusion must ensue. 

But, Sir, there is one kind of influence far greater than that 
of the nomination to office. This, gentlemen in opposition have 
totally overlooked, although it now exists in its full vigor ; and 
it will do so, upon their scheme, in at least as much force as it 
does now. That influence this bill cuts up by the roots: I 
mean the influence of protection. I shall explain myself: — The 
office given to a young man going to India is of trifling conse- 
quence. But he that goes out an insignificant boy, in a few 
years returns a great nabob. Mr. Hastings says he has two 
hundred and fifty of that kind of raw materials, wh« expect to 
be speedily manufactured into the merchantable quality I men- 
tion. One of these gentlemen, suppose, returns hither, loaded 
with odium and with riches. When he comes to England, he 
comes as to a prison, or as to a sanctuary ; and either is ready for 
him, according to his demeanor. What is the influence in the 
grant of any place in India, to that which is acquired by the 
protection or compromise with such guilt, and with the com- 

20 



230 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

mand of such riches, under the dominion of the hopes and fears 
which power is able to hold out to every man in that condi- 
tion ? That man's whole fortune, half a milHon perhaps, be- 
comes an instrument of influence, without a shilling of charge 
to the civil list ; and the influx of fortunes which stand in need 
of this protection is continual. It works both ways ; it influ- 
ences the dehnquent, and it may corrupt the minister. Compare 
the influence acquired by appointing for instance even a gov- 
ernor general, and that obtained by protecting him. I shall 
push this no further. But I wish gentlemen to roll it a httle in 
their own minds. 

The bill before you cuts off* this source of influence. Its 
design and main scope is to regulate the administration of India 
upon the principles of a court of judicature ; and to exclude, as 
far as human prudence can exclude, all possibility of a corrupt 
partiality, in appointing to ofiice, or supporting in office, or 
covering from- mquiry and punishment, any person who has 
abused or shall abuse his authority. At the board, as appointed 
and regulated by this bill, reward and punishment cannot be 
shifted and reversed by a whisper. That commission becomes 
fatal to cabal, to intrigue, and to secret representation, those 
instruments of the ruin of India. He that cuts off" the means 
of premature fortune, and the power of protecting it when ac- 
quired, strikes a deadly blow at the great fund, the bank, the 
capital stock of Indian influence, which cannot be vested any- 
where, or in any hands, without most dangerous consequences 
to the public. 

The third and contradictory objection is. That this bill does 
not increase the influence of the crown. Gn the contrary, That 
the just power of the crown will be lessened, and transferred to 
the use of a party, by giving the patronage of India to a com- 
mission nominated by parliament, and independent of the crown. 
The contradiction is glaring, and it has been too well exposed 
to make it necessary for me to insist upon it. But passing the 
contradiction, and taking it without any relation, of all objec- 
tions that is the most extraordinary. Do not gentlemen know, 
that the crown has not at present the grant of a single oflice 
under the company, civil or military, at home or abroad ? So 
far as the ^rown is concerned, it is certainly rather a gainer ; 
for the vacant offices in the new commission are to be filled up 
by the king. 

It is argued as a part of the bill, derogatory to the preroga- 
tives of the crown, that the commissioners named in the bill are 
to continue for a short term of years, too short in my opinion ; 
and because, during that time, they are not at the mercy of 
every predominant faction of the court. Does not this objec- 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 231 

tion lie against the present directors ; none of whom are named 
by the crown, and a proportion of whom hold for this very 
term of four years ? Did it not lie against the governor general 
and council named in the act of 1773 — who were invested by 
name, as the present commissioners are to be appointed in the 
body of the act of parhament, who were to hold their places 
for a term of terms, and were not removable at the discretion 
of the crown ? Did it not lie against the re-appointment, in the 
year 1780, upon the very same terms? Yet at none of these 
times, whatever other objections the scheme might be liable to, 
was it supposed to be a derogation to the just prerogative of 
the crown, that a commission created by act of parhament 
should have its members named by the authority which called 
it into existence 1 This is not the disposal by parliament of any 
office derived from the authority of the crown, or now dispo- 
sable by that authority. It is so far from being anything new, 
violent, or alarming, that I do not recollect, in any parliament- 
ary commission, down to the commissioners of the land tax, 
that it has ever been otherwise. 

The objection of the tenure for four years is an objection to 
all places that are not held during pleasure ; but in that objec- 
tion I pronounce the gentlemen, from my knowledge of their 
complexion and of their principles, to be perfectly in earnest. 
The party (say these gentlemen) of the minister who proposes 
this scheme will be rendered powerful by it ; for he will name 
his party friends to the commission. This objection against 
party is a party objection ; and in this too these gentlemen are 
perfectly serious. They see that if, by any intrigue, they should 
succeed to office, they will lose the clandestine patronage, the 
true instrument of clandestine influence, enjoyed in the name 
of subservient directors, and of wealthy trembling Indian de- 
Unquents. But as often as they are beaten off this ground, they 
return to it again. The minister will name his friends, and 
persons of his own party. — Whom should he name ? Should he 
name his adversaries 1 Should he name those whom he cannot 
trust ? Should he name those to execute his plans, who are the 
declared enemies to the principles of his reform ? His charac- 
ter is here at stake. If he proposes for his own ends (but he 
never will propose) such names as, from their want of rank, 
fortune, character, ability, or knowledge, are likely to betray 
or to fall short of their trust, he is in an independent house of 
commons ; in a house of commons which has, by its own vir- 
tue, destroyed the instruments of parliamentary subservience. 
This house of commons would not endure the sound of such 
names. He would perish by the means which he is supposed 
to pursue for the security of his power. The first pledge he 



232 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH 

must give of his sincerity in this great reform, will be in the 
confidence which ought to be reposed in those names. 

For my part, Sir, in this business I put all indirect considera- 
tions wholly out of my mind. My sole question, on each clause 
of the bill, amounts to this : — Is the measure proposed required 
by the necessities of India ? I cannot consent totally to lose 
sight of the real wants of the people who are the objects of it, 
and to hunt after every matter of party squabble that may be 
started on the several provisions. On the question of the du- 
ration of the commission I am clear and decided. Can I, can 
any one who has taken the smallest trouble to be informed 
concerning the affairs of India, amuse himself with so strange 
an imagination, as that the habitual despotism and oppression, 
that the monopoHes, the peculations, the universal destruction 
of all the legal authority of this kingdom, which have been for 
twenty years maturing to their present enormity, combined with 
the distance of the scene, the boldness and artifice of delin- 
quents, their combination, their excessive wealth, and the fac- 
tion they have made in England, can be fully corrected in a 
shorter term than four years'? None has hazarded such an 
assertion — None, who has a regard for his reputation, will 
hazard it. 

Sir, the gentlemen, whoever they are, who shall be appointed 
to this commission, have an undertaking of magnitude on their 
hands, and their stability must not only be, but it must be 
thought, real ; — and who is it will believe, that anything short 
of an establishment made, supported, and fixed in its duration, 
with all the authority of parliament, can be thought secure of a 
reasonable stability ? The plan of my honorable friend is the 
reverse of that of reforming by the authors of the abuse. The 
best we could expect from them is, that they should not con- 
tinue their ancient pernicious activity. To those we could 
think of nothing but applying control; as we are sure, that even 
a regard to their reputation (if any such thing exists in them) 
would oblige them to cover, to conceal, to suppress, and con- 
sequently to prevent, all cure of the grievances of India. For 
what can be discovered, which is not to their disgrace 1 Every 
attempt to correct an abuse would be a satire on their former 
administration. Every man they should pretend to call to an 
account, would be found their instrument or their accomplice. 
They can never see a beneficial regulation, but with a view to 
defeat it. The shorter the tenure of such persons, the better 
would be the chance of some amendment. 

But the system of the bill is different. It calls in persons in 
nowise concerned with any act censured by parliament ; per- 
sons generated with, and for, the reform, of which they are 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 233 

themselves the most essential part. To these the chief regula- 
tions in the bill are helps, not fetters ; they are authorities to 
support, not regulations to restrain them. From these we look 
for much more than innocence. From these we expect zeal, 
firmness, and unremitted activity. Their duty, their character, 
binds them to proceedings of vigor ; and they ought to have a 
tenure in their office which precludes all fear, whilst they are 
acting up to the purposes of their trust; a tenure without 
which, none will undertake plans that require a series and 
system of acts. When they know that they cannot be whis- 
pered out of their duty, that their pubhc conduct cannot be 
censured without a pubhc discussion ; that the schemes which 
they have begun will not be committed to those who will have 
an interest and credit in defeating and disgracing them ; then 
we may entertain hopes. The tenure is for four years, or 
during their good behaviour. That good behaviour is as long 
as they are true to the principles of the bill ; and the judgment 
is in either house of parliament. This is the tenure of your 
judges ; and the valuable principle of the bill is to make a 
judicial administration for India. It is to give confidence in 
the execution of a duty, which requires as much perseverance 
and fortitude as can fall to the lot of any that is born of woman. 
As to gain by party, from the right honorable gentleman's 
bill, let it be shown, that this supposed party advantage is per- 
nicious to its object, and the objection is of weight ; but until 
this is done, and this has not been attempted, I shall consider 
the sole objection, from its tendency to promote the interest of 
a party, as altogether contemptible. The kingdom is divided 
into parties, and it ever has been so divided, and it ever will be 
so divided ; and if no system for relieving the subjects of this 
kingdom from oppression, and snatching its affairs from ruin, 
can be adopted until it is demonstrated that no party can derive 
an advantage from it, no good can ever be done in this country. 
If party is to derive an advantage from the reform of India, 
(which is more than I know, or believe,) it ought to be that 
party which alone, in this kingdom, has its reputation, nay its 
very being, pledged to the protection and preservation of that 
part of the empire. Great fear is expressed, that the commis- 
sioners named in this bill will show some regard to a minister 
out of place. To men made hke the objectors, this must ap- 
pear criminal. Let it however be remembered by others, that 
if the commissioners should be his friends, they cannot be his 
slaves. But dependants are not in a condition to adhere to 
friends, nor to principles, nor to any uniform line of conduct. 
They may begin censors, and be obliged to end accomplices. 

2E 20* 



234 MR- BURKE'S SPEECH 

They may be even put under the direction of those whom they 
were appointed to punish. 

The fourth and last objection is, that the bill will hurt public 
credit. I do not know whether this requires an answer. But 
if it does, look to your foundations. The sinking fund is the 
pillar of credit in this country ; and let it not be forgot, that 
the distresses, owing to the mismanagement of the East India 
company, have already taken a milhon from that fund by the 
non-payment of duties. The bills drawn upon the company, 
which are about four millions, cannot be accepted without the 
consent of the treasury. 

The treasury, acting under a parliamentary trust and au- 
thority, pledges the public for these millions. If they pledge 
the public, the public must have a security in its hands for the 
management of this interest, or the national credit is gone. 
For otherwise it is not only the East India company, which is 
a great interest, that is undone, but, clinging to the security of 
all your funds, it drags down the rest, and the whole fabric 
perishes in one ruin. If this bill does not provide a direction 
of integrity and of ability competent to that trust, the objec- 
tion is fatal. If it does, public credit must depend on the sup- 
port of the bill. 

It has been said, if you violate this charter, what security 
has the charter of the bank, in which public credit is so deeply 
concerned, and even the charter of London, in which the rights 
of so many subjects are involved ? I answer, in the like case 
they have no security at all — No — no security at all. If the 
bank should, by every species of mismanagement, fall into a 
state similar to that of the East India company; if it should be 
oppressed with demands it could not answer, engagements 
which it could not perform, and with bills for which it could 
not procure payment ; no charter should protect the mismange- 
ment from correction, and such public grievances from redress. 
If the city of London had the means and will of destroying an 
empire, and of cruelly oppressing and tyrannizing over millions 
of men as good as themselves, the charter of the city of Lon- 
don should prove no sanction to such tyranny and such op- 
pression. Charters are kept, when their purposes are main- 
tained: they are violated, w^hen the privilege is supported 
•against its end and its object. 

Now, Sir, I have finished all I proposed to say, as my reasons 
for giving my vote to this bill. If I am wrong, it is not for 
want of pains to know what is right. This pledge, at least, of 
my rectitude I have given to my country. 

And now, having done my duty to the bill, let me say a 
word to the author. I should leave him to his own noble sen- 



ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 235 

timents, if the unworthy and illiberal language with which he 
has been treated, beyond all example of parliamentary liberty, 
did not make few words necessary ; not so much in justice to 
him, as to my own feehngs. I must say then, that it will be a 
distinction honorable to the age, that the rescue of the greatest 
number of the human race that ever were so grievously op- 
pressed, from the greatest tyranny that was ever exercised, 
has fallen to the lot of abilities and dispositions equal to the task ; 
that it has fallen to one who has the enlargement to compre- 
hend, the spirit to undertake, and the eloquence to support, so 
great a measure of hazardous benevolence. His spirit is not 
owing to his ignorance of the state of men and things ; he well 
knows what snares are spread about his path, from personal 
animosity, from court intrigues, and possibly from popular 
delusion. But he has put to hazard his ease, his security, his 
interest, his power, even his darling popularity, for the benefit 
of a people whom he has never seen. This is the road that all 
heroes have trod before him. He is traduced and abused for 
his supposed motives. He will remember, that obloquy is a 
necessary ingredient in the composition of all true glory : he 
will remember, that it was not only in the Roman customs, but 
it is in the nature and constitution of things, that calumny and 
abuse are essential parts of triumph. These thoughts will sup- 
port a mind, which only exists for honor, under the burthen of 
temporary reproach. He is doing indeed a great good ; such 
as rarely falls to the lot, and almost as rarely coincides with 
the desires of any man. Let him use his time. Let him give 
the whole length of the reins to his benevolence. He is now 
on a great eminence, w^here the eyes of mankind are turned to 
him. He may live long, he may do much. But here is the 
summit. He never can exceed what he does this day. 

He has faults ; but they are faults that, though they may in 
a small degree tarnish the lustre, and sometimes impede the 
march of his abilities, have nothing in them to extinguish the 
fire of great virtues. In those faults, there is no mixture of 
deceit, of hypocrisy, of pride, of ferocity, of complexional 
despotism, or want of feeling for the distresses of mankind. 
His are faults which might exist in a descendant of Henry the 
Fourth of France, as they did exist in that father of his country. 
Henry the Fourth wished that he might live to see a fowl in 
the pot of every peasant in his kingdom. That sentiment of 
homely benevolence was worth all the splendid sayings that 
are recorded of kings. But he wished perhaps for more 
than could be obtained, and the goodness of the man exceeded 
the power of the king. But this gentleman, a subject, may 
this day say this at least, with truth, that he secures the rice in 



236 SPEECH ON MR. FOX'S EAST INDIA BILL. 

his pot to every man in India. A poet of antiquity thought it 
one of the first distinctions to a prince whom he meant to 
celebrate, that through a long succession of generations, he 
had been the progenitor of an able and virtuous citizen, who, 
by force of the arts of peace, had corrected governments of 
oppression, and suppressed wars of rapine. 

Indole proh quanta juvenis, quantumque daturus 
Ausonias populis, ventura in ssecula civem. 
lUe super Gangem, super exaudiuts et Indos, 
Implebit terras voce ; et furialia bella 
Fulmine compescet linguae. 

This was what was said of the predecessor of the only per- 
son to whose eloquence it does not wrong that of the mover 
of this bill to be compared. But the Ganges and the Indus 
are the patrimony of the fame of my honorable friend, and not 
of Cicero. I confess, I anticipate with joy the reward of 
those, whose whole consequence, power, and authority, exist 
only for the benefit of mankind ; and I carry my mind to all 
the people, and all the names and descriptions, that, relieved 
by this bill, will bless the labors of this parliament, and the 
confidence which the best house of commons has given to him 
who the best deserves it. The little cavils of party w^ill not 
be heard, where freedom and happiness will be felt. There is 
not a tongue, a nation, or religion in India, which will not bless 
the presiding care and manly beneficence of this house,. and of 
him who proposes to you this great work. Your names will 
never be separated before the throne of the Divine Goodness, 
in whatever language, or with whatever rites, pardon is asked 
for sin, and reward for those who imitate the Godhead in his 
universal bounty to his creatures. These honors you deserve, 
and they will surely be paid, when all the jargon of influence, 
and party, and patronage, are swept into oblivion. 

I have spoken what I think, and what I feel, of the mover 
of this bill. An honorable friend of mine, speaking of his 
merits, was charged with having made a studied panegyric. I 
don't know what his was. Mine, I am sure, is a studied pan- 
egyric ; the fruit of much meditation ; the result of the obser- 
vation of near twenty years. For my own part, I am happy 
that I have lived to see this day ; I feel myself overpaid for 
the labors of eighteen years, when, at this late period, I am 
able to take my share, by one humble vote, in destroying a 
tyranny that exists to the disgrace of this nation, and the de- 
struction of so large a part of the human species. 



EXTRACT FROM THE 

SPEECH OF MR. BURKE, 

ON OPENING THE IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ., 

FEBRUARY 15 AND 16, 1788. 

My Lords, 

The gentlemen who have it in command to support the im- 
peachment against Mr. Hastings, have directed me to open the 
cause with a general view of the grounds, upon which the 
Commons have proceeded in their charge against him. They 
have directed me to accompany this with another general view 
of the extent, the magnitude, the nature, the tendency, and the 
effect of the crimes, which they allege to have been by him 
committed. They have also directed me to give an explana- 
tion (with their aid I may be enabled to give it) of such cir- 
cumstances, preceding the crimes charged on Mr. Hastings, or 
concomitant with them, as may tend to elucidate whatever may 
be found obscure in the articles as they stand. To these they 
wished me to add a few illustrative remarks on the laws, cus- 
toms, opinions, and manners of the people concerned, and who 
are the objects of the crimes we charge on Mr. Hastings. 

The several articles, as they appear before you, will be open- 
ed by other gentlemen with more particularity, with more dis- 
tinctness, and, without doubt, with infinitely more ability, when 
they come to apply the evidence, which naturally belongs to 
each article of this accusation. This, my lords, is the plan 
which we mean to pursue, on the great charge which is now 
to abide your judgment. 

My lords, I must look upon it as an auspicious circumstance 
to this cause, in which the honor of the kingdom and the fate 
of many nations are involved, that, from the first commence- 
ment of our parHamentary process to this the hour of solemn 
trial, not the smallest difference of opinion has arisen between 
the two houses. 

My lords, there are persons, who, looking rather upon what 
was to be found in our records and histories, than what was to 
be expected from the public justice, had formed hopes consola- 
tory to themselves and dishonorable to us. They flattered 
themselves, that the corruptions of India would escape amidst 
the dissensions of parliament. They are disappointed. They 
will be disappointed in all the rest of their expectations, which 



238 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

they have formed upon everything, except the merits of their 
cause. The Commons M^ill not have the melancholy unsocial 
glory of having acted a solitary part in a noble, but imperfect, 
vi^ork. What the greatest inquest of the nation has begun, its 
highest tribunal will accomplish. At length justice will be done 
to India. It is true, that your lordships will have your full 
share in this great achievement ; but the Commons have al- 
ways considered, that whatever honor is divided with you is 
doubled on themselves. 

My lords, I must confess, that amidst these encouraging 
prospects the Commons do not approach your bar without awe 
and anxiety. The magnitude of the interests, which we have 
in charge, will reconcile some degree of sohcitude for the event 
with the undoubting confidence, with which we repose our- 
selves upon your lordship's justice. For we are men, my lords ; 
and men are so made, that it is not only the greatness of dan- 
ger, but the value of the adventure, which measures the degree 
of our concern in every undertaking. I solemnly assure your 
lordships, that no standard is sufficient to estimate the value, 
which the Commons set upon the event of the cause they now 
bring before you. My lords, the business of this day is not the 
business of this man — it is not solely, whether the prisoner at 
the bar be found innocent, or guilty ; but whether millions of 
mankind shall be made miserable, or happy. 

Your lordships will see in the progress of this cause, that 
there is not only a long connected, systematic series of mis- 
demeanors, but an equally connected system of maxims and 
principles, invented to justify them. Upon both of these you 
must judge. According to the judgment, that you shall give 
upon the past transactions in India, inseparably connected as 
they are with the principles which support them, the whole 
character of your future government in that distant empire is 
to be unalterably decided. It will take its perpetual tenor, it 
will receive its final impression, from the stamp of this very 
hour. 

It is not only the interest of India, now the most considera- 
ble part of the British empire, which is concerned, but the 
credit and honor of the British nation itself will be decided by 
this decision. We are to decide by this judgment, whether the 
crimes of individuals are to be turned into public guilt and na- 
tional ignominy ; or whether this nation will convert the very 
oflfences, which have thrown a transient shade upon its govern- 
ment, into something, that will reflect a permanent lustre upon 
the honor, justice, and humanity of this kingdom. 

My lords, there is another consideration, which augments 
the solicitude of the Commons, equal to those other two great 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 239 

interests I have stated, those of our empire and our national 
character ; something, that, if possible, comes more home to 
the hearts and feehngs of every EngUshman : I mean, the in- 
terests of our constitution itself, vv^hich is deeply involved in 
the event of this cause. The future use, and the whole effect, 
if not the very existence, of the process of an impeachment of 
high crimes and misdemeanors before the peers of this king- 
dom, upon the charge of the Commons, will very much be de- 
cided by your judgment in this cause. This tribunal will be 
found (I hope it will always be found) too great for petty 
causes : if it should at the same time be found incompetent to 
one of the greatest ; that is, if httle offences, from their minute- 
ness, escape you, and the greatest, from their magnitude, op- 
press you ; it is impossible, that this form of trial should not, 
in the end, vanish out of the constitution. For we must not 
deceive ourselves : whatever does not stand with credit cannot 
stand long. And if the constitution should be deprived, I do 
not mean in form, but virtually, of this resource, it is virtually' 
deprived of everything else, that is valuable in it. For this 
process is the cement, which binds the whole together ; this is 
the individuating principle, that makes England what England 
is. In this court it is, that no subject, in no part of the empire, 
can fail of competent and proportionable justice : here it is, 
that we provide for that, which is the substantial excellence of 
our constitution ; I mean, the great circulation of responsibility, 
by which (excepting the supreme power) no man, in no cir- 
cumstance, can escape the account, which he owes to the laws 
of his country. It is by this process, that magistracy, which 
tries and controls all other things, is itself tried and controlled. 
Other constitutions are satisfied with making good subjects ; 
this is a security for good governors. It is by this tribunal, 
that statesmen, who abuse their power, are accused by states- 
men, and tried by statesmen, not upon the niceties of a narrow 
jurisprudence, but upon the enlarged and soHd principles of 
state morality. It is here, that those, who by the abuse of 
power have violated the spirit of law, can never hope for pro- 
tection from any of its forms : — it is here, that those, who have 
refused to conform themselves to its perfections, can never 
hope to escape through any of its defects. It ought, therefore, 
my lords, to become our common care to guard this your 
precious deposit, rare in its use, but powerful in its effect, with 
a rehgious vigilance, and never to suffer it to be either discred- 
ited or antiquated. For this great end your lordships are in- 
vested with great and plenary powers : but you do not suspend, 
you do not supersede, you do not annihilate any subordinate 



240 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

jurisdiction; on the contrary, you are auxiliary and supple- 
mental to them all. 

Whether it is owing to the felicity of our times, less fertile 
in great offences, than those, which have gone before us ; or 
whether it is from a sluggish apathy, which has dulled and en- 
ervated the public justice, I am not called upon to determine : 
but, whatever may be the cause, it is now sixty-three years 
since any impeachment, grounded upon abuse of authority and 
misdemeanor in office, has come before this tribunal. The last 
is that of Lord Macclesfield, which happened in the year 1725. 
So that the oldest process knotvn to the constitution of this 
country has, upon its revival, some appearance of novelty. At 
this time, when all Europe is in a state of, perhaps, contagious 
fermentation ; when antiquity has lost all its reverence and all 
its effect on the minds of men, at the same time that novelty is 
still attended with the suspicions, that always will be attached 
to whatever is new ; we have been anxiously careful in a busi- 
ness, which seems to combine the objections both to what is 
antiquated and what is novel, so to conduct ourselves, that no- 
thing in the revival of this great parhamentary process shall 
afford a pretext for its future disuse. 

My lords, strongly impressed as they are with these senti- 
ments, the commons have conducted themselves with singular 
care and caution. Without losing the spirit and zeal of a public 
prosecution, they have comported themselves with such mod- 
eration, temper, and decorum, as would not have ill become 
the final judgment, if with them rested the final judgment, of 
this great cause. 

With very few intermissions, the affairs of India have con- 
stantly engaged the attention of the Commons for more than four- 
teen years. We may safely affirm, we have tried every mode 
of legislative provision, before we had recourse to anything of 
penal process. It was in the year 1774 we framed an act of 
parKament for remedy to the then existing disorders in India, 
such as the then information before us enabled us to enact. 
Finding, that the act of parliament did not answer all the ends 
that were expected from it, we had, in the year 1782, recourse 
to a body of monitory resolutions. Neither had we the ex- 
pected fruit from them. When, therefore, we found, that our 
inquiries and our reports, our laws and our admonitions, were 
alike despised ; that enormities increased in proportion as they 
were forbidden, detected, and exposed ; when we found, that 
guilt stalked with an erect and upright front, and that legal 
authority seemed to skulk and hide its head like outlawed guilt; 
when we found, that some of those very persons, who were 
appointed by parliament to assert the authority of the laws of 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 241 

this kingdom, were the most forward, the most bold, and the 
most active, in the conspiracy for their destruction ; then it was 
time for the justice of the nation to re-collect itself. To have 
forborne longer would not have been patience, but colhision ; it 
would have been participation with guilt ; it would have been 
to make ourselves accomplices with the criminal. 

We found it was impossible to evade painful duty, without 
betraying a sacred trust. Having, therefore, resolved upon the 
last and only resource, a penal prosecution, it was our next 
business to act in a manner worthy of our long deliberation. 
In all points we proceeded with selection. We have chosen 
(we trust, it will so appear to your lordships) such a crime, and 
such a criminal, and such a body of evidence, and such a mode 
of process, as would have recommended this course of justice 
to posterity, even if it had not been supported by any example 
in the practice of our forefathers. 

First, to speak of the process : we are to inform your lord- 
ships, that, besides that long previous deliberation of fourteen 
years, we examined, as a preliminary to this proceeding, every 
circumstance, which could prove favorable to parties appa- 
rently delinquent, before we finally resolved ta prosecute. 
There was no precedent to be found, in the journals, favorable 
to persons in Mr. Hastings's circumstances, that was not ap- 
pHed to. Many measures utterly unknown to former parlia- 
mentary proceedings, and which, indeed, seemed in some 
degree to enfeeble them, but which were all to the advantage 
of those that were to be prosecuted, were adopted, for the first 
time, upon this occasion. — In an early stage of the proceeding, 
the criminal desired to be heard. He was heard ; and he pro- 
duced before the bar of the House that insolent and unbecoming 
paper, which lies upon our table. It was dehberately given in 
by his own hand, and signed with his own name. The Com- 
mons, however, passed by everything offensive in that paper 
with a magnanimity, that became them. They considered 
nothing in it, but the facts that the defendant alleged, and the 
principles he maintained ; and after a deliberation, not short of 
judicial, we proceeded with confidence to your bar. 

So far as to the process ; which, though I mentioned last in 
the line and order, in which I stated the objects of our selec- 
tion, I thought it best to dispatch first. 

As to the crime, which we chose, we first considered well 
what it was in its nature, under all the circumstances, which 
attended it. We weighed it with all its extenuations, and with 
■>all its aggravations. On that review we are warranted to as- 
sert, that the crimes, with which we charge the prisoner at the 
bar, are substantial crimes ; that they are no errors or mistakes, 

2F 21 



1242 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

such as wise and good men might possibly fall into ; which may- 
even produce very pernicious effects, without being in fact 
great offences. The Commons are too liberal, not to allow for 
the difficulties of a great and arduous public situation. They 
know too well the domineering necessities, which frequently 
occur in all great affairs. They know the exigency of a press- 
ing occasion, which, in its precipitate career, bears everything 
down before it, which does not give time to the mind to recol- 
lect its faculties, to reinforce its reason, and to have recourse 
to fixed principles, but, by compelling an instant and tumultu- 
ous decision, too often obliges men to decide in a manner, that 
calm judgment would certainly have rejected. We know, as 
we are to be served by men, that the persons, who serve us, 
must be tried as men, and with a very large allowance indeed, 
to human infirmity and human error. This, my lords, we knew, 
and we weighed before we came before you. But the crimes, 
which we charge in these articles, are not lapses, defects, er- 
rors, of common frailty, which, as we know and feel, we can 
allow for. We charge this offender with no crimes, that have 
not arisen from passions, which it is criminal to harbor; with 
no offences, that have not their root in avarice, rapacity, pride, 
insolence, ferocity, treachery, cruelty, malignity of temper ; in 
short, in nothing, that does not argue a total extinction of all 
moral principle ; that does not manifest an inveterate blackness 
of heart, died in grain with malice, vitiated, corrupted, gan- 
grened to the very core. If we do not plant his crimes in 
those vices, which the breast of man is made to abhor, and the 
spirit of all laws, human and divine, to interdict, we desire no 
longer to be heard upon this occasion. Let everything, that 
can be pleaded on the ground of surprise or error, upon those 
grounds be pleaded with success : we give up the whole of those 
predicaments. We urge no crimes, that were not crimes of 
forethought. We charge him with nothing, that he did not 
commit upon deliberation ; that he did not commit against ad- 
vice, supplication, and remonstrance ; that he did not commit 
against the direct command of lawful authority ; that he did 
not commit after reproof and reprimand, the reproof and re- 
primand of those who are authorized by the laws to reprove 
and reprimand him. The crimes of Mr. Hastings are crimes, 
not only in themselves, but aggravated by being crimes of con- 
tumacy. They were crimes, not against forms, but against 
those eternal laws of justice, which are our rule and our birth- 
right. His offences are not, in formal, technical language, but 
in reality, in substance and effect, high crimes and high misde- 
meanors. 

So far as to the crimes. As to the criminal, we have chosen 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 243 

him on the same principle, on which we selected the crimes. 
We have not chosen to bring before you a poor, puny, trembling 
delinquent, misled, perhaps, by those, who ought to have taught 
him better, but who have afterwards oppressed him by their 
power, as they had first corrupted him by their example. In- 
stances there have been many, when the punishment of minor 
offences, in inferior persons, has been made the means of 
screening crimes of a high order, and in men of high descrip- 
tion. Our course is different. We have not brought before 
you an obscure offender, who, when his insignificance and 
weakness are weighed against the power of the prosecution, 
gives even to public justice something of the appearance of op- 
pression ; no, my lords, we have brought before you the first 
man of India in rank, authority, and station. We have brought 
before you the chief of the tribe, the head of the whole body of 
eastern offenders ; a captain-general of iniquity, under whom 
all the fraud, all the peculation, all the tyranny, in India, are 
embodied, disciplined, arrayed, and paid. This is the person, 
my lords, that we bring before you. We have brought before 
you such a person, that, if you strike at him with the firm arm 
of justice, you will not have need of a great many more ex- 
amples. You strike at the whole corps, if you strike at the 
head. 

So far as to the crime : so far as to the criminal. Now, my 
lords, I shall say a few words relative to the evidence, which 
we have brought to support such a charge, and which ought to 
be equal in weight to the charge itself. It is chiefly evidence 
of record, officially signed by the criminal himself in many 
instances. We have brought before you his own letters, au- 
thenticated by his own hand. On these we chiefly rely. But 
we shall likewise bring before you living witnesses, competent 
to speak to the points, to which they are brought. 

When you consider the late enormous power of the pris- 
oner ; when you consider his criminal, indefatigable assiduity 
in the destruction of all recorded evidence ; when you consider 
the influence he has over almost all Hving testimony; when 
you consider the distance of the scene of action ; I believe 
your lordships, and I beheve the world, will be astonished, that 
so much, so clear, so solid, and so conclusive evidence of all 
kinds has been obtained against him. I have no doubt, that in 
nine instances in ten the evidence is such as would satisfy the 
narrow precision supposed to prevail, and to a degree rightly 
to prevail, in all subordinate power and delegated jurisdiction. 
But your lordships will maintain, what we assert and claim as 
the right of the subjects of Great Britain — that you are not 



244 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

bound by any rules of evidence, or any other rules whatever, 
except those of natural, immutable, and substantial justice. 

God forbid the Commons should desire, that anything should 
be received as proof from them, which is not by nature adapt- 
ed to prove the thing in question. If they should make such 
a request, they would aim at overturning the very principles I 
of that justice, to which they resort. They would give the I 
nation an evil example, that w^ould rebound back on themselves, I 
and bring destruction upon their own heads, and on those of 
all their posterity. 

On the other hand, I have too much confidence in the learn- 
ing with which you will be advised, and the liberahty and no- 
bleness of the sentiments with which you are born, to suspect, i 
that you would, by any abuse of the forms, and. a technical i 
course of proceeding, deny justice to so great a part of the 
world, that claims it at your hands. Your lordships always 
had an ample power, and almost unlimited jurisdiction ; you 
have now a boundless object. It is not from this district, or 
from that parish, not from this city, or the other province, that 
relief is now applied for : exiled and undone princes, extensive 
tribes, suffering nations, infinite descriptions of men, different 
in language, in manners, and in rites — men, separated by every 
barrier of nature from you, by the providence of God are , 
blended in one common cause, and are no^v become suppliants | 
at your bar. For the honor of this nation, in vindication of 
this mysterious providence, let it be known, that no rule formed 
upon municipal maxims (if any such rule exists) will prevent 
the course of that imperial justice, which you owe to the peo- 
ple, that call to you from all parts of a great disjointed world. 
For, situated as this kingdom is, an object, thank God, of envy 
to the rest of the nations ; its conduct in that high and elevated 
situation will undoubtedly be scrutinized with a severity as great 
as its power is invidious. 

It is well known, that enormous wealth has poured into this 
country from India through a thousand channels, public and 
concealed ; and it is no particular derogation from our honor 
to suppose a possibility of being corrupted by that, by which 
other empires have been corrupted, and assemblies, almost as 
respectable and venerable as your lordships, have been directly 
or indirectly vitiated. Forty millions of money, at least, have 
within our memory been brought from India into England. In 
this case the most sacred judicature ought to look to its repu- 
tation. Without oflfence we may venture to suggest, that the 
best way to secure reputation is, not by a proud defiance of 
public opinion, but by guiding our actions in such a manner, as 
that public opinion may in the end be securely defied, by hav- 



IMPEACHMENT OF WAJRREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 245 

ing been previously respected and dreaded. No direct false 
judgment is apprehended from the tribunals of this country. 
But it is feared, that partiality may lurk and nestle in the abuse 
of our forms of proceeding. It is necessary, therefore, that 
nothing in that proceeding should appear to mark the slightest 
trace, should betray the faintest odor, of chicane. God forbid, 
that, when you try the most serious of all causes, that when 
you try the cause of Asia in the presence of Europe, there 
should be the least suspicion, that a narrow partiality, utterly 
destructive of justice, should so guide us, that a British subject 
in power should appear in substance to possess rights, which 
are denied to the humble alhes, to the attached dependants of 
this kingdom, who by their distance have a double demand 
upon your protection, and who, by an implicit (I hope not a 
weak and useless) trust in you, have stripped themselves of 
every other resource under heaven. 

Ido not say this from any fear, doubt, or hesitation, con- 
cerning what your lordships will finally do : none in the world ; 
but I cannot shut my ears to the rumors, which you all know 
to be disseminated abroad. The abusers of power may have a 
chance to cover themselves by those fences and intrenchments, 
which were made to secure the liberties of the people against 
men of that very description. But God forbid it should be 
bruited from Pekin to Paris, that the laws of England are for 
the rich and the powerful ; but to the poor, the miserable, and 
defenceless, they afford no resource at all. God forbid it should 
be said, no nation is equal to the English in substantial violence 
and in formal justice — that in this kingdom we feel ourselves 
competent to confer the most extravagant and inordinate 
powers upon public ministers, but that we are deficient, poor, 
helpless, lame, and impotent in the means of calling them to 
account for their use of them. An opinion has been insidiously 
circulated through this kingdom, and through foreign nations 
too, that, in order to cover our participation in guilt, and our 
common interest in the plunder of the East, we have invented 
a set of scholastic distinctions, abhorrent to the common sense, 
and unpropitious to the common necessities, of mankind; by 
which we are to deny ourselves the knowledge of what the 
rest of the world knows, and what so great a part of the world 
both knows and feels. I do not deprecate any appearance which 
may give countenance to this aspersion, from suspicion that any 
corrupt motive can influence this court; I deprecate it from 
knowing, that hitherto we have moved within the narrow circle 
of municipal justice. I am afraid, that, from the habits ac- 
quired by moving within a circumscribed sphere, we may be 
induced rather to endeavor at forcing nature into that municipal 

21* 



246 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

circle, than to enlarge the circle of national justice to the neces- 
sities of the empire we have obtained. 

This is the only thing, which does create any doubt or diffi- 
culty in the minds of sober people. But there are those, who 
will not judge so equitably. Where two motives, neither of them 
perfectly justifiable, may be assigned, the worst has the chance 
of being preferred. If, from any appearance of chicane in the 
court, justice should fail, all men will say, better there were no 
tribunals at all. In my humble opinion, it would be better a 
thousand times to give all complainants the short answer the 
Dey of Algiers gave a British ambassador, representing certain 
grievances suffered by the British merchants, — " My friend," 
(as the story is related by Dr. Shawe) " do not you know, that 
my subjects are a band of robbers, and that I am their captain?" 
— better it would be a thousand times, and a thousand thousand 
times more manly, than a hypocritical process, which, under 
a pretended reverence to punctiUous ceremonies and observ- 
ances of law, abandons mankind, without help and resource, 
to all the desolating consequences of arbitrary power. The 
conduct and event of this cause will put an end to such doubts, 
wherever they may be entertained. Your lordships will exer- 
cise the great plenary powers, with which you are invested, in 
a manner, that will do honor to the protecting justice of this 
kingdom, that will completely avenge the great people, who are 
subjected to it. You will not suffer your proceedings to be 
squared by any rules, but by their necessities, and by that law 
of a common nature, which cements them to us, and us to 
them. The reports to the contrary have been spread abroad 
with uncommon industry ; but they will be speedily refuted by 
the humanity, simplicity, dignity, and nobleness of your lord- 
ships' justice. 

The first thing, in considering the merits or demerits of any 
governor, is to have some test, by which they are to be tried. 
And here, my lords, we conceive, that when a British governor 
is sent abroad, he is sent to pursue the good of the people as 
much as possible in the spirit of the laws of this country, which 
in all respects intend their conservation, their happiness, and 
their prosperity. This is the principle, upon which Mr. Hast- 
ings was bound to govern, and upon which he is to account 
for his conduct here. 

His rule was, what a British governor, intrusted with the 
power of this country, was bound to do, or to forbear. If he 
has performed, and if he has abstained, as he ought, dismiss 
him honorably acquitted from your bar — otherwise condemn 
him. He may resort to other principles and to other maxims ; 
but this country will force him to be tried by its laws. The 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 247 

law of this country recognizes that well-known crime, called 
misconduct in office ; it is a head of the law of England, and, 
so far as inferior courts are competent to try it, may be tried 
in them. Here, your lordships' competence is plenary ; you 
are fully competent both to inquire into, and to punish the 
offence. And, first, I am to state to your lordships, by the 
direction of those whom I am bound to obey, the principles 
on which Mr. Hastings declares he has conducted his govern- 
ment ; principles, which he has avowed — first, in several letters 
written to the East India company — next, in a paper of de- 
fence, delivered to the House of Commons, explicitly ; and 
more expUcitly in his defence before your lordships. Nothing 
in Mr. Hastings's proceedings is so curious as his several de- 
fences ; and nothing in the defences is so singular, as the prin- 
ciples, upon which he proceeds. Your lordships will have to 
decide not only upon a large, connected, systematic train of 
misdemeanors, but an equally connected system of principles 
and maxims of government, invented to justify those misde- 
meanors. He has brought them forward and avowed them in 
the face of the day. He has boldly and insultingly thrown 
them in the face of the representatives of a free people, and 
we cannot pass them by without adopting them. 

I am directed to protest against those grounds and principles 
upon which he frames his defence ; for, if those grounds are 
good and vahd, they carry off a great deal at least, if not 
entirely, the foundation of our charge. My lords, we contend 
that Mr. Hastings, as a British governor, ought to govern on 
British principles, not by British forms — God forbid; for, if 
ever there was a case, in which the letter kills and the spirit 
gives life, it would be an attempt to introduce British forms 
and the substance of despotic principles together into any 
country. No. We call for that spirit of equity, that spirit of 
justice, that spirit of protection, that spirit of lenity, which 
ought to characterize every British subject in power ; and on 
these, and these principles only, he will be tried. 

But he has told your lordships, in his defence, that actions 
in Asia do not bear the same moral qualities, which the same 
actions would bear in Europe. 

My lords, we positively deny that principle. I am authorized 
and called upon to deny it. And having stated at large what he 
means by saying, that the same actions have not the same 
qualities in Asia and in Europe, we are to let your lordships 
know, that these gentlemen have formed a plan oi geographical 
mm^ality, by which the duties of men, in public and in private 
situations, are not to be governed by their relation to the great 
Governor of the universe, or by their relation to mankind, but 



248 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

by climates, degrees of longitude, parallels not of life but of 
latitudes ; as if, when you have crossed the equinoctial, all the 
virtues die, as they say some insects die, when they cross the 
line ; as if there were a kind of baptism, like that practised by 
seamen, by which they unbaptize themselves of all that they 
learned in Europe, and after which a new order and system of 
things commenced. 

This geographical morality we do protest against. Mr. Hast- 
ings shall not screen himself under it ; and on this point I hope 
and trust many words will not be necessary to satisfy your 
lordships. But we think it necessary, in justification of our- 
selves, to declare, that the laws of morality are the same 
everywhere ; and that there is no action, which would pass for 
an act of exhortation, of peculation, of bribery, and of oppression 
in England, that is not an act of extortion, of peculation, of 
bribery, and oppression, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and all the 
world over. This I contend for, not in the technical forms of 
it, but I contend for it in the substance. 

Mr. Hastings comes before your lordships not as a British 
governor answering to a British tribunal, but as a soubahdar, 
as a bashaw of three tails. He says, " I had an arbitrary 
power to exercise : I exercised it. Slaves I found the people ; 
slaves they are, they are so by their constitution ; and if they 
are, I did not make it for them. I was unfortunately bound to 
exercise this arbitrary power, and accordingly I did exercise 
it. It was disagreeable to me, but I did exercise it, and no 
other power can be exercised in that country." This, if it be 
true, is a plea in bar. But I trust and hope your lordships will 
not judge, by laws and institutions which you do not know, 
against those laws and institutions which you do know, and 
under whose power and authority Mr. Hastings went out to 
India. Can your lordships patiently hear what we have heard 
with indignation enough, and what, if there were nothing else, 
would call these principles, as well as the actions which are 
justified on such principles, to your lordships' bar; that it may 
be known whether the Peers of England do not sympathize 
with the Commons in their detestation of such doctrine ? Think 
of an English governor tried before you as a British subject, 
and yet declaring, that he governed on the principles of arbi- 
trary power. His plea is, that he did govern there on arbitrary 
and despotic, and, as he supposes, oriental principles. And as 
this plea is boldly avowed and maintained, and as, no doubt, 
all his conduct was perfectly correspondent to these principles, 
the principles and the conduct must be tried together. 

If your lordships will now permit me, I will state one of the 
many places, in which he has avowed these principles as the 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 249 

basis and foundation of all his conduct. " The sovereignty, 
which they assumed, it fell to my lot, very unexpectedly, to 
exert ; and v\^hether or not such power, or powers of that na- 
ture, were delegated to me by any provisions of any act of 
parliament, I confess myself too little of a lawyer to pronounce. 
I only know, that the acceptance of the sovereignty of Bena- 
res, &c. is not acknowledged or admitted by any act of par- 
liament ; and yet, by the particular interference of the majority 
of the council, the company is clearly and indisputably seized 
of that sovereignty." So that this gentleman, because he is 
not a lawyer, nor clothed with those robes which distinguish 
and well distinguish the learning of this country, is not to know 
anything of his duty ; and whether he was bound by any, or 
what act of parliament, is a thing he is not lawyer enough to 
know. Now, if your lordships will suffer the laws to be broken 
by those who are not of the long robe, I am afraid those of 
the long robe will have none to punish but those of their own 
profession. He therefore goes to a law he is better acquainted 
with; that is, the law of arbitrary power and force, if it 
deserves to be called by the name of law. " If, therefore," 
says he, " the sovereignty of Benares, as ceded to us by the vizier, 
have any rights whatever annexed to it, (and be not a mere 
empty word without meaning,) those rights must be such as are 
held, countenanced, and established by the law, custom, and 
usage of the Mogul empire, and not by the provisions of any 
British act of parliament hitherto enacted. Those rights, and 
none other, I have been the involuntary instrument of enforcing. 
And if any future act of parliament shall positively, or by im- 
plication, tend to annihilate those very rights, or their exertion, 
as I have exerted them, I much fear, that the boasted sovereign- 
ty of Benares, which was held up as an acquisition almost 
obtruded on the company against my consent and opinion, (for 
I acknowledge, that even then I foresaw many difficulties and 
inconveniences in its future exercise ;) I fear, I say, that this 
sovereignty will be found a burden instead of a benefit, a heavy 
clog rather than a precious gem to its present possessors ; I 
mean, unless the whole of our territory in that quarter shall be 
rounded and made an uniform compact body by one grand and 
systematic arrangement; such an arrangement as shall do 
away all the mischiefs, doubts, and inconveniences (both to the 
governors and the governed) arising from the variety of tenures, 
rights, and claims in all cases of landed property and feudal 
jurisdiction in India, from the informality, invalidity, and insta- 
bility of all engagements in so divided and unsettled a state of 
society; and from the unavoidable anarchy and confusion of 
different laws, religions, and prejudices, moral, civil, and politi- 

2G 



250 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

cal, all jumbled together in one unnatural and discordant mass. 
Every part of Hindostan has been constantly exposed to these 
and similar disadvantages ever since the Mahomedan con- 
quests." 

" The Hindus, who never incorporated with their conquerors, 
were kept in order only by the strong hand of power. The 
constant necessity of similar exertions would increase at once 
their energy and extent, so that rebellion itself is the parent and 
promoter of despotism. Sovereignty in India implies nothing 
else. For I know not how we can form an estimate of its 
powers, but from its visible effects, and those are everywhere 
the same from Cabool to Assam. The whole history of Asia 
is nothing more than precedents to prove the invariable exer- 
cise of arbitrary power. To all this I strongly alluded in the 
minutes I delivered in council, when the treaty with the new 
vizier was on foot in 1775 ; and I wished to make Cheit Sing 
independent, because in India dependence included a thousand 
evils, many of which I enumerated at that time, and they are 
entered in the ninth clause of the first section of this charge. 
I knew the powers with which an Indian sovereignty is armed, 
and the dangers to which tributaries are exposed. I knew, 
that, from the history of Asia, and from the very nature of man- 
kind, the subjects of a despotic empire are always vigilant for 
the moment to rebel, and the sovereign is ever jealous of rebel- 
lious intentions. A zemindar is an Indian subject, and, as such, 
exposed to the common lot of his fellows. The mean and de- 
praved state of a mere zemindar is therefore this very dependence 
above-mentioned on a despotic government, this very prone- 
ness to shake off his allegiance, and this very exposure to 
continual danger from his sovereign's jealousy, which are con- 
sequent on the political state of Hindostanic governments. 
Bulwant Sing, if, he had been, and Cheit Sing, as long as he 
was, a zemindar, stood exactly in this mean and depraved state 
by the constitution of his country. I did not make it for him, 
but would have secured him from it. Those who made him a 
zemindar, entailed upon him the consequences of so mean and 
depraved a tenure. Ally Verdy Cawn and Cossim Ally fined 
all their zemindars on the necessities of war, and on every 
pretence either of court necessity or court extravagance." 

My lords, you have now heard the principles, on which Mr. 
Hastings governs the part of Asia subjected to the British em- 
pire. You have heard his opinion of the mean and depraved 
state of those who are subject to it. You have heard his lec- 
ture upon arbitrary power, which he states to be the constitu- 
tion of Asia. You hear the appHcation he makes of it ; and 
you hear the practices which he employs to justify it, and who 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 251 

the persons were, on whose authority he relies, and whose ex- 
ample he professes to follow. In the first place, your lordships 
will be astonished at the audacity, with which he speaks of his 
own administration, as if he was reading a speculative lecture 
on the evils attendant upon some vicious system of foreign go- 
vernment, in which he had no sort of concern whatever. And 
then, when in this speculative way he has established, or thinks 
he has, the vices of the government, he conceives he has found 
a sufficient apology for his own crimes. And if he violates the 
most st)lemn engagements, if he oppresses, extorts, and robs, if 
he imprisons, confiscates, banishes, at his sole will and pleasure, 
when we accuse him for his ill treatment of the people com- 
mitted to him as a sacred trust, his defence is, — to be robbed, 
violated, oppressed, is their privilege — let the constitution of 
their country answer for it. — I did not make it for them. 
Slaves I found them, and as slaves I have treated them. I was 
a despotic prince, despotic governments are jealous, and the 
subjects prone to rebellion. This very proneness of the sub- 
ject to shake off his allegiance exposes him to continual danger 
from his sovereign's jealousy; and this is consequent on the 
political state of Hindostanic governments. He lays it down 
as a rule, that despotism is the genuine constitution of India, 
that a disposition to rebellion in the subject, or dependent, 
prince is the necessary effect of this despotism, and that jea- 
lousy and its consequences naturally arise on the part of a 
sovereign — that the government is everything, and the subject 
nothing — that the great landed men are in a mean and depraved 
state, and subject to many evils. 

Such a state of things, if true, would warrant conclusions 
directly opposite to those which Mr. Hastings means to draw 
from them, both argumentatively and practically, first to influ- 
ence his conduct, and then to bottom his defence of it. 

Perhaps you will imagine, that the man who avows these 
principles of arbitrary government, and pleads them as the jus- 
tification of acts which nothing else can justify, is of opinion, 
that they are on the whole good for the people, over whom they 
are exercised. The very reverse. He mentions them as hor- 
rible things, tending to inflict on the people a thousand evils, 
and to bring on the ruler a continual train of dangers. Yet he 
states, that your acquisitions in India will be a detriment instead 
of an advantage, if you destroy arbitrary power, unless you 
can reduce all the religious establishments, all the civil institu- 
tions, and tenures of land, into one uniform mass; i. e. unless 
by acts of arbitrary power you extinguish all the laws, rights, 
and religious principles of the people, and force them to an 



252 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

uniformity ; and on that uniformity build a system of arbitrary 
power. 

But nothing is more false, than that despotism is the consti- 
tution of. any country in Asia, that we are acquainted with. It 
is certainly not true of any Mahomedan constitution. But if 
it were, do your lordships really think, that the nation would 
bear, that any human creature would bear, to hear an Enghsh 
governor defend himself on such principles ? or, if he can de- 
fend himself on such principles, is it possible to deny the con- 
clusion, that no man in India has a security for anything, but 
by being totally independent of the British government ? Here 
he has declared his opinion, that he is a despotic prince, that 
he is to use arbitrary power, and of course all his acts are 
covered with that shield. " I know, says he, the constitution of 
Asia only from its practice.'^ Will your lordships submit to hear 
the corrupt practices of mankind made the principles of gov- 
ernment ? — No ; it will be your pride and glory to teach men 
intrusted with power, that, in their use of it, they are to con- 
form to principles, and not to draw their principles from the 
corrupt practice of any man whatever. Was there ever heard, 
or could it be conceived, that a governor would dare to heap 
up all the evil practices, all the cruelties, oppressions, extor- 
tions, corruptions, briberies, of all the ferocious usurpers, des- 
perate robbers, thieves, cheats, and jugglers, that ever had 
office from one end of Asia to another, and consolidating all 
this mass of the crimes and absurdities of barbarous domina- 
tion into one code, estabhsh it as the whole duty of an English 
governor? I believe, that till this time so audacious a thing 
was never attempted by man. — 

He have arbitrary power ! My lords, the East India com- 
pany have not arbitrary power to give him ; the king has no 
arbitrary power to give him ; your lordships have not ; nor the 
Commons ; nor the whole legislature. We have no arbitrary 
power to give, because arbitrary power is a thing which 
neither any man can hold nor any man can give. No man 
can lawfully govern himself according to his own will, much 
less can one person be governed by the will of another. We 
are all born in subjection, all born equally, high and low, gov- 
ernors and governed, in subjection to one great, immutable, 
pre-existent law, prior to all our devices, and prior to all our 
contrivances, paramount to all our ideas, and all our sensations, 
antecedent to our very existence, by which we are knit and 
connected in the eternal frame of the universe, out of which 
we cannot stir. 

This great law does not arise from our conventions or com- 
pacts ; on the contrary, it gives to our conventions and com- 



■m'' 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 253 

pacts all the force and sanction they can have ; — it does not 
arise from oar vain institutions. Every good gift is of God ; 
all power is of God ; — and He, who has given the power, and 
from whom alone it originates, will never suffer the exercise 
of it to be practised upon any less soHd foundation than the 
power itself If then all dominion of man over man is the ef- 
fect of the divine disposition, it is bound by the eternal laws of 
Him that gave it, with w^hich no human authority can dis- 
pense ; neither he, that exercises it, nor even those, who are 
subject to it : and, if they were mad enough to make an express 
compact, that should release their magistrate from his duty, 
and should declare their lives, liberties, and properties depend- 
ent upon, not rules and law'S, but his mere capricious will, that 
covenant would be void. The acceptor of it has not his au- 
thority increased, but he has his crime doubled. Therefore 
can it be imagined, if this be true, that he will suffer this great 
gift of government, the greatest, the best, that w^as ever given 
by God to mankind, to be the plaything and the sport of the 
feeble will of a man, w^ho, by a blasphemous, absurd, and pet- 
ulant usurpation, would place his owai feeble, contemptible, 
ridiculous will in the place of the divine wisdom and justice ? 

The title of conquest makes no difference at all. No con- 
quest can give such a right ; for conquest, that is force, cannot 
convert its ow^n injustice into a just title, by which it may rule 
others at its pleasure. By conquest, which is a more immediate 
designation of the hand of God, the conqueror succeeds to all 
the painful duties and subordination to the powder of God, 
which belonged to the sovereign, w^hom he has displaced, just 
as if he had come in by the positive law of some descent, or 
some election. To this at least he is strictly bound — he ought 
to govern them, as he governs his own subjects. But every 
wise conqueror has gone much further than he w^as bound to 
go. It has been his ambition and his policy to reconcile the 
vanquished to his fortune, to show^ that they had gained by the 
change, to convert their momentary suffering into a long bene- 
fit, and to draw from the humiHation of his enemies an acces- 
sion to his own glory. This has been so constant a practice, 
that it is to repeat the histories of all politic conquerors in all 
nations and in all times ; and I will not so much distrust your 
lordships' enlightened and discriminating studies and correct 
memories, as to allude to one of them. I will only show you, 
that the court of directors, under whom he served, has adopted 
that idea, that they constantly inculcated it to him, and to all 
the servants, that they run a parallel betw^een their own and 
the native government, and supposing it to be very evil did not 
hold it up as an example to be follow^ed, but as an abuse to be 

22 



254 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

corrected ; that they never made it a question, whether India 
is to be improved by English lav^ and hberty, or English law 
and liberty vitiated by Indian corruption. 

No, my lords, this arbitrary power is not to be had by con- 
quest. Nor can any sovereign have it by succession, for no 
man can succeed to fraud, rapine, and violence ; neither by 
compact, covenant, or submission, — for men cannot covenant 
themselves out of their rights and their duties ; nor by any 
other means can arbitrary power be conveyed to any man. 
Those, who give to others such rights, perform acts, that are 
void as they are given, good indeed and valid only as tending 
to subject themselves, and those who act with them, to the di- 
vine displeasure ; because morally there can be no such power. 
Those who give, and those who receive, arbitrary power, are 
alike criminal ; and there is no man but is bound to resist it to 
the best of his power, wherever it shall show its face to the 
world. It is a crime to bear it, when it can be rationally 
shaken off. Nothing but absolute impotence can justify men in 
not resisting it to the utmost of their ability. 

Law and arbitrary power are in eternal enmity. Name me 
a magistrate, and I will name property ; name me power, and 
I will name protection. It is a contradiction in terms ; it is 
blasphemy in religion; it is wickedness in politics, to say, that 
any man can have arbitrary power. In every patent of office 
the duty is included. For what else does a magistrate exist ? 
To suppose for power is an absurdity in idea. Judges are 
guided and governed by the eternal laws of justice, to which 
we are all subject. We may bite our chains if we will, but 
we shall be made to know ourselves, and be taught, that man is 
born to be governed by law ; and he, that will substitute will in 
the place of it, is an enemy to God. 

Despotism does not in the smallest degree abrogate, alter, or 
lessen any one duty of any one relation of life, or weaken the 
force or obligation of any one engagement or contract what- 
soever. Despotism, if it means anything, that is at all defen- 
sible, means a mode of government, bound by no written rules, 
and coerced by no controlling magistracies, or well settled or- 
ders in the state. But if it has no written law, it neither does, 
nor can, cancel the primeval, indefeasible, unalterable law of 
nature, and of nations ; and if no magistracies control its ex- 
ertions, those exertions must derive their limitation and direc- 
tion either from the equity and moderation of the ruler, or 
from downright revolt on the part of the subject by rebellion, 
divested of all its criminal qualities. The moment a sovereign 
removes the idea of security and protection from his subjects, 
and declares, that he is everything, and they nothing, when he 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 255 

declares, that no contract he makes with them can or ought to 
bind him, he then declares war upon them. He is no longer 
sovereign ; they are no longer subjects. 

No man, therefore, has a right to arbitrary power. But the 
thought, which is suggested by the depravity of him, who brings 
it forward, is supported by a gross confusion of ideas and prin- 
ciples, which your lordships well know how to discern and 
separate. It is manifest, that in the eastern governments, and 
the western, and in all governments, the supreme power in the 
state cannot, whilst that state subsists, be rendered criminally 
responsible for its actions; otherwise it would not be the 
supreme power. It is certainly true ; but the actions do not 
change their nature by losing their responsibility. The arbi- 
trary acts, which are unpunished, are not the less vicious, though 
none but God, the conscience, and the opinions of mankind 
take cognizance of them. 

It is not merely so in this or that government, but in all 
countries. The king in this country is undoubtedly unaccount- 
able for his actions. The House of Lords, if it should ever 
exercise (God forbid I should suspect it would ever do what it 
has never done), but if it should ever abuse its judicial power, 
and give such a judgment as it ought not to give, whether from 
fear of popular clamor on the one hand, or predilection to the 
prisoner on the other; if they abuse their judgments, there is 
no calling them to an account for it. And so, if the Commons 
should abuse their power, — nay, if they should have been so 
greatly dehnquent as not to have prosecuted this offender, they 
could not be accountable for it ; there is no punishing them for 
their acts, because we exercise a part of the supreme power. 
But are they less criminal, less rebelHous against the Divine 
Majesty? are they less hateful to man, whose opinions they 
ought to cultivate as far as they are just ? No. Till society fall 
into a state of dissolution, they cannot be accountable for their 
acts. But it is from confounding the unaccountable character, 
inherent in the supreme power, with arbitrary power, that all 
this confusion of ideas has arisen. 

Even upon a supposition, that arbitrary power can exist 
anywhere, which we deny totally, and which your lordships 
will be the first and proudest to deny, still absolute, supreme 
dominion was never conferred or delegated by you ; much less, 
arbitrary power, which never did in any case, nor ever will in 
any case, time or country, produce any one of the ends of just 
government. 

It is true, that the supreme power in every constitution of 
government must be absolute ; and this may be corrupted into 
the arbitrary. But all good constitutions have estabhshed cer- 



256 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

tain fixed rules for the exercise of their functions, which they 
rarely or ever depart from, and which rules form the security 
against that worst of evils, the government of will and force 
instead of wisdom and justice. 

But though the supreme power is in a situation resembling 
arbitrary, yet never was there heard of in the history of the 
world, that is, in that mixed chaos of human wisdom and folly, 
such a thing as an intermediate arbitrary power — that is, of an 
officer of government, who is to exert authority over the people 
without any law at all, and who is to have the benefit of all 
laws, and all forms of law, when he is called to an account. 
For that is to let a wild beast (for such is a man without law) 
loose upon the people to prey on them at his pleasure ; whilst 
all the laws, which ought to secure the people against the abuse 
of power, are employed to screen that abuse against the cries 
of the people. 

This is de facto the state of our Indian government. But to 
establish it so in right as well as in fact, is a thing left for us to 
begin with, — the first of mankind. 

For a subordinate, arbitrary, or even despotic power never 
was heard of in right, claim, or authorized practice. Least of 
all has it been heard of in the eastern governments, where all 
the instances of severity and cruelty fall upon governors, and 
persons intrusted with power. This would be a gross contra- 
diction. Before Mr. Hastings none ever came before his supe- 
riors to claim it; because, if any such thing could exist, he 
claims the very power of that sovereign, who calls him to 
account. 

But suppose a man to come before us, denying all the benefits 
of law to the people under him, — and yet, when he is called to 
account, to claim all the benefits of that law, which was made 
to screen mankind from the excesses of power : such a claim, I 
will venture to say, is a monster, that never existed except in 
the wild imagination of some theorist. It cannot be admitted, 
because it is a perversion of the fundamental principle, that 
every power, given for the protection of the people below, 
should be responsible to the power above. It is to suppose, 
that the people shall have no laws with regard to him, yet 
when he comes to be tried, he shall claim the protection of those 
laws, which were made to secure the people from his violence; 
that he shall claim a fair trial, an equitable hearing, every 
advantage of counsel (God forbid he should not have them), yet 
that the people under him shall have none of these advantages. 
The reverse is the principle of every just and rational proce- 
dure. For the people, who have nothing to use but their natural 
faculties, ought to be gently dealt with; but those, who are 



i 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 257 

intrusted with an artificial and instituted authority, have in their 
hands a great deal of the force of other people ; and as their 
temptations to injustice are greater, so their means are infinitely 
more effectual for mischief by turning the powers given for the 
preservation of society to its destruction ; so that if an arbitrary 
procedure be justifiable, a strong one I am sure is, it is when 
used against those who pretend to use it against others. 

My lords, I will venture to say of the governments of Asia, 
that none of them ever had an arbitrary power ; and, if any 
governments had an arbitrary power, they cannot delegate it 
to any persons under them ; that is, they cannot so delegate it 
to others as not to leave them accountable, on the principles 
upon which it was given. As this is a contradiction in terms, 
a gross absurdity as well as a monstrous wickedness, let me 
say, for the honor of human nature, that although undoubtedly 
we may speak it with the pride of England, that we have 
better institutions for the preservation of the rights of men, 
than any other country in the world ; yet I will venture to say, 
that no country has wholly meant, or ever meant, to give this 
power. 

As it cannot exist in right on any rational and solid princi- 
ples of government, so neither does it exist in the constitution 
of oriental governments; and I do insist upon it, that oriental 
governments know nothing of arbitrary power. I have taken 
as much pains as I could to examine into the constitutions of 
them. I have been endeavoring to inform myself at all times 
on this subject ; of late, my duty has led me to a more minute 
inspection of them, and I do challenge the whole race of man 
to show me any of the oriental governors claiming to them- 
selves a right to act by arbitrary will. 

The greatest part of Asia is under Mahomedan governments. 
To name a Mahomedan government, is to name a government 
by law. It is a law enforced by stronger sanctions than any. 
law, that can bind a Christian sovereign. Their law is believed 
to be given by God, and it has the double sanction of law and 
of religion^ with which the prince is no more authorized to 
dispense than any one else. And, if any man will produce the 
Koran to me, and will but show me one text in it, that au- 
thorizes in any degree an arbitrary power in the government, I 
will confess, that I have read that book, and been conversant 
in the affairs of Asia, in vain. There is not such a syllable in 
it; but, on the contrary, against oppressors by name every 
letter of that law is fulminated. There are interpreters estab- 
lished throughout all Asia, to explain that law, an order of 
priesthood, whom they call men of the law. These men are 
conservators of the law; and, to enable them to preserve it in 

2 H 22* 



258 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

its perfection, they are secured from the resentment of the 
sovereign, for he cannot touch them. Even their kings are not 
always vested with a real supreme power ; but the government 
is in some degree republican. 

To bring this point a little nearer home, since we are chal- 
lenged thus, since we are led into Asia, since we are called 
upon to make good our charge on the principles of the govern- 
ments there, rather than on those of our own country, (which 
I trust your lordships will obhge him finally to be governed by, 
puffed up as he is with the insolence of Asia,) the nearest to us 
of the governments he appeals to is that of the Grand Seignior, 
the emperor of the Turks — He an arbitrary power! Why he 
has not the supreme power of his own country. Every one 
knows, that the Grand Seignior is exalted high in titles, as our 
prerogative lawyers exalt an abstract sovereign, and he cannot • 
be exalted higher in our books. I say he is destitute of the first | 
character of sovereign power. He cannot lay a tax upon his ' 
people. 

The next part, in which he misses of a sovereign power, is, 
that he cannot dispose of the life, of the property, or of the 
liberty of any of his subjects, but by what is called the fetfa, 
or sentence of the law. He cannot declare peace or war 
without the same sentence of the law ; so much is he, more 11 
than European sovereigns, a subject of strict law, that he can- - 
not declare war or peace without it. Then, if he can neither 
touch life or property, if he cannot lay a tax on his subjects, or -l 
declare peace or war, I leave it to your lordships' judgment, j 
whether he can be called, according to the principles of that 
constitution, an arbitrary power. A Turkish sovereign, if he 
should be judged by the body of that law to have acted against 
its principles, (unless he happens to be secured by a faction of " 
the soldiery,) is liable to be deposed on the sentence of that law, 
and his successor comes in under the strict limitations of the 
ancient law^ of that country : neither can he hold his place, dis- 
pose of his succession, or take any one step whatever, without 
being bound by law. Thus much may be said, when gentle- 
men talk of the affairs of Asia, as to the nearest of Asiatic 
sovereigns; and he is more Asiatic than European, he is a 
Mahomedan sovereign ; and no Mahomedan is born, who can 
exercise any arbitrary power at all, consistently with their con- 
stitution : insomuch that this chief magistrate, who is the highest 
executive power among them, is the very person, who, by the 
constitution of the country, is the most fettered by law. 

Corruption is the true cause of the loss of all the benefits of 
the constitution of that country. The practice of Asia, as the 
gentleman at your bar has thought fit to say, is what he holds 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 259 

to ; the constitution he flies , away from. The question is, 
whether you will take the constitution of the country as your 
rule, of the base practices of those usurpers, robbers, and 
tyrants, who have subverted it. Undoubtedly much blood, 
murder, false imprisonment, much peculation, cruelty and rob- 
bery are to be found in Asia ; and if, instead of going to the 
sacred laws of the country, he chooses to resort to the iniqui- 
tous practices of it, and practices authorized only by the public 
tumult, contention, war, and riot, he may indeed find as clear 
an acquittal in the practices, as he would find condemnation in 
the institutions of it. He has rejected the law of England. 
Your lordships will not suffer it. God forbid ! For my part I 
should have no sort of objection to let him choose his law— 
Mahomedan, Tartarean, Gentu. But if he disputes, as he does, 
the authority of an act of parHament, let him state to me that 
law, to which he means to be subject, or any law, which he 
knows, that will justify his actions. I am not authorized to say, 
that I shall, even in that case, give up what is not in me to 
give up, because I represent an authority, of which I must 
stand in awe ; but, for myself, 1 shall confess, that I am brought 
to public shame, and am not fit to manage the great interests 
committed to my charge. I therefore again repeat of that 
Asiatic government, with which we are best acquainted, which 
has been constituted more in obedience to the laws of Mahomed, 
than any other, — that the sovereign cannot, agreeably to that 
constitution, exercise any arbitrary power whatever. 

The next point for us to consider is, whether or no the Ma- 
homedan constitution of India authorizes that power. The 
gentleman at your lordships' bar has thought proper to say, 
that it will be happy for India (though soon after he tells you 
it is a happiness they can never enjoy) " when the despotic 
institutes of Genghiz Khan or Tamerlane shall give place to 
the liberal spirit of the British legislature ; and," says he, " I 
shall be amply satisfied in my present prosecution, if it shall 
tend to hasten the approach of an event so beneficial to the 
great interests of mankind." 

My lords, you have seen what he says about an act of par- 
liament. Do you not now think it rather an extraordinary 
thing, that any British subject should, in vindication of the au- 
thority which he has .exercised, here quote the names and 
institutes, as he calls them, of fierce conquerors, of men who 
were the scourges of mankind, whose power was a power 
which they held by force only ? 

As to the institutes of Genghiz Khan, which he calls arbitrary 
institutes, I never saw them. If he has that book, he will 
oblige the public by producing it. I have seen a book existing. 



260 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

called Yassa of Genghiz Khan ; the other I never saw. If there 
be any part of it to justify arbitrary power, he will produce it. 
But, if we may judge by those ten precepts of Genghiz Khan 
which we have, there is not a shadow of arbitrary power to 
be found in any one of them. Institutes of arbitrary power ! 
Why, if there is arbitrary power, there can be no institutes. 

As to the institutes of Tamerlane; here they are in their 
original, and here is a translation. I have carefully read every 
part of these institutes; and if any one shows me one word in 
them, in which the prince claims in himself arbitrary power, I 
again repeat, that I shall for my own part confess, that I have 
brought myself to great shame. There is no book in the world, 
I believe, which contains nobler, more just, more manly, more 
pious principles of government than this book, called the Insti- 
tutions of Tamerlane. Nor is there one word of arbitrary 
power in it, much less of that arbitrary power which Mr. 
Hastings supposes himself justified by; namely, a delegated, 
subordinate, arbitrary power. So far was that great prince 
from permitting this gross, violent, intermediate, arbitrary 
power, that I will venture to say, the chief thing, by which he 
has recommended himself to posterity, was a most direct 
declaration of all the wrath and indignation of the supreme 
government against it. But here is the book. It contains the 
institutes of the founder of the Mogul empire, left as a sacred 
legacy to his posterity, as a rule for their conduct, and as a 
means of preserving their power. 

But it is not in this instance only, that I must do justice to 
the East. I assert that their morality is equal to ours, in what- 
ever regards the duties of governors, fathers, and superiors ; 
and I challenge the world to show, in any modern European 
book, more true morality and wisdom than is to be found in 
the writings of Asiatic men in high trust; and who have been 
counsellors to princes. If this be the true morality of Asia, 
as I affirm, and can prove, that it is, the plea founded on 
Mr. Hastings's geographical morality is annihilated. 

I little regard the theories of travellers, where they do not 
relate facts, on which they are founded. I have two instances 
of facts, attested by Tavernier, a traveller of power and con- 
sequence, which are very material to be mentioned here, be- 
cause they show, that, in some of the .instances recorded, in 
which the princes of the country have used any of those cruel 
and barbarous executions, which make us execrate them, it 
has been upon governors who have abused their trust, and 
that this very oriental authority, to which Mr. Hastings appeals, 
would have condemned him to a dreadful punishment. I thank 
God, and I say it from my heart, that even for his enormous 



#1 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 261 

offences there neither is, nor can be, anything hke such punish- 
ments. God forbid, that we should not as much detest out of 
the way, mad, furious, and unequal punishments, as we detest 
enormous and abominable crimes ; because a severe and cruel 
penalty for a crime of a hght nature is as bad and iniquitous as 
the crime which it pretends to punish. As the instances I allude 
to are curious, and as they go to the principles of Mr. Hastings's 
defence, I shall beg to quote them. 

The first is upon a governor, who did, what Mr. Hastings 
says he has a power delegated to him to do ; he levied a tax 
without the consent of his master. " Some years after my de- 
parture from Com, (says Tavernier,) the governor had, of his 
own accord, and without any communication with the king, 
laid a small impost upon every pannier of fruit brought into 
the city, for the purpose of making some necessary reparations 
in the walls and bridges of the town. It was towards the end 
of the year 1632, that the event, I am going to relate, happened. 
The king being informed of the impost, which the governor 
had laid upon the fruit, ordered him to be brought in chains to 
court. The king ordered him to be exposed to the people al 
one of the gates of the palace : then he commanded the son to 
pluck off the mustachios of his father, to cut off his nose and 
ears, to put out his eyes, and then cut off his head. The king 
then told the son to go and take possession of the government 
of his father, saying. See that you govern better than this deceased 
dog, or thy doom shall he a death more exquisitely tormenting.^* 

My lords, you are struck with horror, I am struck with hor- 
ror, at this punishment. I do not relate it to approve of such 
a barbarous act ; but to prove to your lordships, that whatever 
power the princes of that country have, they are jealous of it 
to such a degree, that, if any of their governors should levy a 
tax, even the most insignificant, and for the best purposes, he 
meets with a cruel punishment. I do not justify the punish- 
ment ; but the severity of it shows, how little of their power 
the princes of that country mean to delegate to their servants, 
the whole of which the gentleman at your bar says was dele- 
gated to him. 

There is another case, a very strong one, and that is the 
case of presents, which I understand is a custom admitted 
throughout Asia in all their governments. It was of a person, 
who was raised to a high office ; no business was suffered to 
come before him without a previous present. " One morning, 
the king being at this time on a hunting party, the nazar came 
to the tent of the king, but was denied entrance by the meter, 
or master of the wardrobe. About the same time the king 
came forth, and, seeing the nazar, commanded his officers to 



262 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

take off the bonnet from the head of that dog, that took gifts 
from his people ; and that he should sit three days bareheaded 
in the heat of the sun, and as many nights in the air. After- 
wards he caused him to be chained about the neck and arms, 
and condemned him to perpetual imprisonment, with a mamoudy 
a day for his maintenance ; but he died for grief within eight 
days after he was put in prison." 

Do I mean, by reading this to your lordships, to express or 
intimate an approbation, either of the cruelty of the punish- 
ment, or of the coarse barbarism of the language ? Neither one 
nor the other. I produce it to your lordships to prove to you 
from this dreadful example the horror which that government 
felt, when any person subject to it assumed to himself a privi- 
lege to receive presents. The cruelty and severity exercised 
by these princes is not levelled at the poor, unfortunate people, 
who complain at their gates, but, to use their own barbarous 
expression, to dogs, that impose taxes, and take presents. — God 
forbid, I should use that language. The people, when they 
complain, are not called dogs and sent away, but the governors, 
who do these things against the people ; they are called dogs, 
and treated in that cruel manner. I quote them to show, that 
no governors in the East, upon any principle of their constitu- 
tion, or any good practice of their government, can lay arbi- 
trary imposts, or receive presents. When they escape, it is 
probably by bribery, by corruption, by creating factions for 
themselves in the seragho, in the country, in the army, in the 
divan. But how they escape such punishments, is not my busi- 
ness to inquire; it is enough for me, that the constitution dis- 
avows them, that the princes of the country disavow them ; 
that they revile them with the most horrible expressions, and 
inflict dreadful punishments on them, when they are called to 
answer for these offences. 

Thus much concerning the Mahomedan laws of Asia. That 
the people of Asia have no laws, rights, or liberty, is a doc- 
trine, that wickedly is to be disseminated through this country. 
But I again assert, every Mahomedan government is, by its 
principles, a government of law. 

I shall now state from what is known of the government of 
India, that it does not, and cannot delegate (as Mr. Hastings 
has frequently declared) the whole of its powers and authority 
to him. If they are absolute, as they must be in the supreme 
power, they ought to be arbitrary in none ; they were, however, 
never absolute in any of their subordinate parts, and I will 
prove it by the known provincial constitutions of Hindostan, 
which are all Mahomedan, the laws of which are as clear, as 
explicit, and as learned as ours. 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 263 

. The first foundation of their law is the Khoran. The next 
part is the fetfa, or adjudged cases by proper authority, well 
known there. The next, the written interpretations of the 
principles of jurisprudence; and their books are as numerous 
upon the principles of jurisprudence, as in any country in Eu- 
rope. The next part of their law is what they call the kanon, 
that is, a positive rule equivalent to acts of parliament, the 
law of the several powers of the country, taken from the 
Greek word KANf:>N, which was brought into their country, 
and is well known. The next is the rage ul mulk, or common 
law and. custom of the kingdom, equivalent to our common 
law. Therefore they have laws from more sources than we 
have, exactly in the same order, grounded upon the same au- 
thority, fundamentally fixed to be administered to the people 
upon these principles. 

The next thing is to show, that in India there is a partition 
of the powers of the govermnent, which proves that there is 
no absolute power delegated. 

In every province the first person is the soubahdar or nazim, 
or viceroy: he has the power of the sword, and the adminis- 
tration of criminal justice only. Then there is the dewan, or 
high steward ; he has the revenue, and all exchequer causes, 
under him, to be governed according to the law, and custom, 
and institutions of the kingdom. 

The law of inheritances, successions, and everything that 
relates to them, is under the cadi, in whose court these matters 
are tried. But this too was subdivided. The cadi could not 
judge, but by the advice of his assessors. Properly in the 
Mahomedan law there is no appeal, only a removal of the 
cause; but wh^n there is no judgment, as none can be, when 
the court is not unanimous, it goes to the general assembly of 
all the men of the law. 

There are, I will venture to say, other divisions and subdi- 
visions ; for there are the kanongoes, who hold their places for 
life, to be the conservators of the canons, customs, and good 
usages of the country ; all these, as well as the cadi and the 
mufti, hold their places and situations, not during the wanton 
pleasure of the prince, but, on permanent and fixed terms, for 
life. All these powers of magistracy, revenue, and law, are 
all different, consequently not delegated in the whole to any 
one person. This is the provincial constitution, and these the 
laws, of Bengal, which proves, if there were no other proof, 
by the division of the functions and authorities, that the su- 
preme power of the state in the Mogul empire did, by no 
means, delegate to any of its oflficers the supreme power in its 
fullness. Whether or no we have delegated to Mr. Hastings 



264 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

the supreme power of king and parliament, that he should act 
with the plenitude of authority of the British legislature, you 
are to judge. 

Mr. Hastings has no refuge here. Let him run from law 
to law ; let him fly from the common law, and the sacred in- 
stitutions of the country, in which he was born ; let him fly 
from acts of parHament, from which his power originated ; let 
him plead his ignorance of them, or fly in the face of them. 
Will he fly to the Mahomedan law? — that condemns him. 
Will he fly to the high magistracy of Asia to defend taking of 
presents 1 Pad Sha and the sultan would condemn him to a 
cruel death. Will he fly to the sophis, to the laws of Persia, 
or to the practice of those monarchs ? I cannot utter the pains, 
the tortures, that would be inflicted on him, if he were to gov- 
ern there, as he has done in a British province ! Let him fly 
where he will, from law to law ; — law (I thank God) meets 
him everywhere, and enforced too by the practice of the most 
impious tyrants, which he quotes as if it would justify his con- 
duct. I would as willingly have him tried by the law of the 
Khoran, or the institutes of Tamerlane, as on the common law, 
or statute law, of this kingdom. 

The next question is, whether the Gentu laws justify arbi- 
trary power ; and, if he finds any sanctuary there, let him take 
it, with the cow, in the pagoda. The Gentus have a law, 
which positively proscribes in magistrates any idea of will ; — ' 
a law, with which, or rather with extracts of it, that gentleman 
himself has furnished us. These people, in many points, are 
governed by their own ancient written law, called the shaster. 
Its interpreters and judges are the pundits. This law is com- 
prehensive, extending to all the concerns of life, affording prin- 
ciples and maxims, and legal theories, applicable to all cases, 
drawn from the sources of natural equity, modified by their in- 
stitutions, full of refinement and subtilty of distinction, equal to 
that of any other law, and has the grand test of all law, that, 
wherever it has prevailed, the country has been populous, 
flourishing, and happy. 

Upon the whole, then, follow him where you will, — let him 
have eastern or western law, you find everywhere arbitrary 
power and peculation of governors proscribed and horribly 
punished : — more so than I should ever wish to punish any, the 
most guilty, human creature. And if this be the case, as I hope 
and trust it has been proved to your lordships, that there is law , 
in these countries, that there is no delegation of power, which 
exempts a governor from the law, then I say at any rate a 
British governor is to answer for his conduct, and cannot be 
justified by wicked examples and profligate practices. 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 265 

But another thing, which he says, is, that he was left to him- 
self to govern himself by his own practice ; that is to say, 
when he had taken one bribe, he might take another ; — ^when he 
had robbed one man of his property, he might rob another ; 
when he had imprisoned one man arbitrarily, and extorted 
money from him, he might do so by another. He resorts at 
first to the practice of barbarians and usurpers ; at last he 
comes to his own. Now, if your lordships will try him by 
such maxims and principles, he is certainly clear ; for there is 
no matter of doubt, that there is nothing he has practised once, 
which he has not practised again ; and then the repetition of 
crimes becomes the means of his indemnity. 

The next pleas he urges are not so much in bar of the im- 
peachment, as in extenuation. The first are to be laid by as 
claims to be made on motion for arrest of judgment, the others 
as an extenuation or mitigation of his fine. He says, and with 
a kind of triumph, the ministry of this country have great legal 
assistance; commercial lights of the greatest commercial city 
in the world ; the greatest generals and officers to guide and 
direct them in military affairs : whereas I, poor man, was sent 
almost a school-boy from England, or at least little better ; — 
sent to find my way in that new world as well as I could. I 
had no men of the law, no legal assistance, to supply my defi- 
ciencies. At ^Sphingem habebas domi. Had he not the chief 
justice, the tamed and domesticated chief justice, who waited 
on him like a familiar spirit, whom he takes from province to 
province, his amanuensis at home, his postihon, and riding ex- 
press abroad ? 

Such a declaration would in some measure suit persons who 
had acted much otherwise than Mr. Hastings. When a man 
pleads ignorance in justification of his conduct, it ought to be 
an humble, modest, unpresuming ignorance; — an ignorance, 
which may have made him lax and timid in the exercise of his 
duty ; — ^but an assuming, rash, presumptuous, confident, daring, 
desperate, and disobedient ignorance, heightens every crime 
that it accompanies. Mr. Hastings, if through ignorance he 
left some of the company's orders unexecuted, because he did 
not understand them, might well say, / was an ignorant man, 
and these things were above my capacity. But when he under- 
stands them, and when he declares he will not obey them posi- 
tively and dogmatically ; — when he says, as he has said, and 
we shall prove it, that he never succeeds better than when he acts 
in an utter defiance of those cn^ders, and sets at naught the laws 
of his country ; I believe this will not be thought the language 
of an ignorant man. But I beg your lordships' pardon ; it is 
the language of an ignorant man ; for no man^ who was not 

2 1 23 



2^56 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

full of a bold, determined, profligate ignorance, could ever 
think of such a system of defence. He quitted Westminster 
school almost a boy. We have reason to regret, that he did 
not finish his education in that noble seminary, which has given 
so many luminaries to the church, and ornaments to the state. 
Greatly it is to be lamented, that he did not go to those univer- 
sities, [w^here arbitrary power will I hope never be heard of; 
but the true principles of religion, of liberty, and law, will ever 
be inculcated,] instead of studying in the school of Cossim Ally 
Cawn. 

If he had lived with us, he would have quoted the examples 
of Cicero in his government ; he would have quoted several of 
the sacred and holy prophets, and made them his example. His 
want of learning, profane as well as sacred, reduces him to the 
necessity of appealing to every name and authority of barba- 
rism, tyranny, and usurpation, that are to be found; and from 
these, he says, from the practice of one part of Asia, or other, I 
have taken my rule. But your lordships will show him, that in 
Asia, as well as in Europe, the same law of nations prevails ; 
the same principles are continually resorted to ; and the same 
maxims sacredly held and strenuously maintained ; and, how- 
ever disobeyed, no man suffers from the breach of them, who 
does not know how and where to complain of that breach ; — 
that Asia is enlightened in that respect as well as Europe ; but, 
if it were totally Winded, that England would send out gover- 
nors to teach them better ; and that he must justify himself to 
the piety, the truth, the faith of England ; and not by having 
recourse to the crimes and criminals of other countries, to the 
barbarous tyranny of Asia, or any other part of the world. 

I will go further with Mr. Hastings, and admit, that, if there 
be a boy in the fourth form of Westminster school, or any 
school in England, who does not know, when these articles are 
read to him, that he has been guilty of gross and enormous 
crimes, he may have the shelter of his present plea, as far as it 
will serve him. There are none of us, thank God, so unin- 
structed, who have learned our catechisms or the first elements 
of Christianity, who does not know, that such conduct is not to 
be justified, and least of all by examples. 

There is another topic he takes up more seriously, and as a 
general rebutter to the charge ; — says he, " After a great many 
of these practices, with which I am charged, parliament ap- 
pointed me to my trust, and consequently has acquitted me." 
Has it, my lords ? I am bold to say, that the Commons are 
wholly guiltless of this charge. I will admit, if parhament on 
a full state of his offences before them, and full examination of 
those offences, had appointed him to the government that then 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 267 

the people of India and England would have just reason to 
exclaim against so flagitious a proceeding. A sense of pro- 
priety and decorum might have restrained us from prosecuting. 
They might have been restrained by some sort of decorum 
from pursuing him criminally. But the Commons stand before 
your lordships without shame. First, in their name we solemnly 
assure your lordships, that w^e had not in our parliamentary 
capacity, (and most of us — myself, I can say surely — heard very 
little, and that in confused rumors,) the slightest know^ledge of 
any one of the acts charged upon this criminal at either of the 
times of his being appointed to office ; and that we were not 
guilty of the nefarious act of collusion and flagitious breach of 
trust, with w^hich he presumes obliquely to charge us ; but from 
the moment w^e knew^ them, w'e never ceased to condemn them 
by reports, by votes, by resolutions ; and that w-e admonished 
and declared it to be the duty of the court of directors to take 
measures for his recall ; and w^hen frustrated in the way know^n 
to that court, we then proceeded to an inquiry. Your lordships 
know, w^hether you were better informed. We are, therefore, 
neither guihy of the precedent crime of colluding with the 
criminal, nor the subsequent indecorum of prosecuting what we 
had virtually and practically approved. 

Secondly ; several of his w^orst crimes have been committed 
since the last parliamentary renewal of his trust, as appears by 
the dates in the charge. 

But I believe, my lords, the judges — judges to others, grave 
and weighty counsellors, and assistants to your lordships, will 
not on reference assert to your lordships, which God forbid, 
and we cannot conceive, or hardly state in argument, if but for 
argument, that if one of the judges had received bribes before 
his appointment to a higher judiciary office, he w^ould not still 
be open to prosecution. 

So far from admitting it as a plea in bar, w^e charge, and w^e 
hope your lordships wall find it an extreme aggravation of his 
offences, that no favors heaped upon him could make him 
grateful, no renewed and repeated trusts could make him faithful 
and honest. 

We have now gone through most of the general topics. 

But, — he is not responsible, as being thanked by the court of 
directors. He has had the thanks and approbation of the India 
company for his services. We know too well here, I trust the 
world knows, — and you will always assert, that a pardon from 
the crow^n is not pleadable here, that it cannot bar the impeach- 
ment of the Commons ; much less a pardon of the East India 
company, though it may involve them in guilt, which might 
induce us to punish them for such a pardon. If any corporation 



268 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

by collusion with criminals refuse to do their duty in coercing 
them, the magistrates are answerable. 

It is the use, virtue, and efficacy of parHamentary judicial 
procedure, that it puts an end to this dominion of faction, 
intrigue, cabal, and clandestine intelligences. The acts of 
men are put to their proper test, and the works of darkness 
tried in the face of day — not the corrupted opinions of others 
on them, but their own intrinsic merits. We charge it as his 
crime, that he bribed the court of directors to thank him for 
what they had condemned as breaches of his duty. 

The East India company, it is true, have thanked him. 
They ought not to have done it ; and it is a reflection upon 
their character, that they did it. But the directors praise him 
in the gross, after having condemned each act in detail. His 
actions are all, every one, censured one by one, as they arise. 
I do not recollect any one transaction, few there are, I am sure, 
in the whole body of that succession of crimes now brought 
before you for your judgment, in which the India company 
have not censured him. Nay, in one instance he pleads their 
censure in bar of this trial ; for he says, " In that censure I 
have already received my punishment." If, for any other rea- 
sons, they come and say, " We thank you. Sir, for all your 
services :" to that I answer, Yes ; and / would thank him for 
his services too, if I knew them. But / do not ; — perhaps they 
do. Let them thank him for those services. I am ordered to 
prosecute him for these crimes. Here therefore we are on a 
balance with the India company ; and your lordships may per- 
haps think it some addition to his crimes, that he has found 
means to obtain the thanks of the India company for the whole 
of his conduct, at the same time that their records are full of 
constant, uniform, particular censure and reprobation of every 
one of those acts, for which he now stands accused. 

He says, there is the testimony of Indian princes in his favor. 
But do we not know how seals are obtained in that country ? 
do we not know, how those princes are imposed upon ? do we 
not know the subjection and thraldom, in which they are held, 
and that they are obliged to return thanks for the sufferings 
which they have felt ? I believe your lordships will think, that 
there is not, with regard to some of these princes, a more 
dreadful thing, that can be said of them, than that he has ob- 
tained their thanks. 

I understand he has obtained the thanks of the miserable 
princesses of Oude, whom he has cruelly imprisoned, whose 
treasure he has seized, and whose eunuchs he has tortured. 

They thank him for going away. They thank him for 
leaving them the smallest trifle of their subsistence ; and I ven- 



\^K IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 269 

^nure to say, if he wanted a hundred more panegyrics, provi- 
ded he never came again among them, he might have them. I 
understand, that Mahdajee Scindia has made his panegyric too. 
Mahdajee Scindia has not made his panegyric for nothing ; for, 
if your lordships will suffer him to enter into such a justifica- 
tion, we shall prove, that he has sacrificed the dignity of this 
country, and the interests of all its alhes, to that prince. We 
appear here neither wdth panegyric, nor with satire ; it is for 
substantial crimes we bring him before you, and amongst 
others for cruelly using persons of the highest rank and consi- 
deration in India; and, when we prove he has cruelly injured 
them, you will think the panegyrics either gross forgeries, or 
most miserable aggravations of his offences, since they show 
the abject and dreadful state, into which he has driven those 
people. For, let it be proved, that I have cruelly robbed and 
maltreated any persons, if I produce a certificate from them of 
my good behavior, would it not be a corroborative proof of the 
terror, into which those persons are thrown by my misconduct? 
My lords, these are, I believe, the general grounds of our 
charge — I have now closed completely, and I hope, to your 
lordship's satisfaction, the whole body of history, of which I 
wished to put your lordships in possession. I do not mean, 
that many of your lordships may not have known it more per- 
fectly by your own previous inquiries ; but bringing to your 
remembrance the state of the circumstances of the persons, 
with whom he acted, the persons and power he has abused, — I 
have gone to the principles he maintains, the precedents he 
quotes, the laws and authorities which he refuses to abide by, 
and those on which he relies ; and at last I have refuted all 
those pleas in bar, on which he depends, and for the effect of 
which he presumes on the indulgence and patience of this coun- 
try, or on the corruption of some persons in it. And here I 
close what I had to say upon this subject ; w^ishing and hoping, 
that, when I open before your lordships the case more particu- 
larly, so as to state rather a plan of the proceeding, than the 
direct proof of the crimes, your lordships will hear me with 
the same goodness and indulgence I have hitherto experienced; 
that you will consider, if I have detained you long it was not 
with a view of exhausting my own strength, or putting your 
patience to too severe a trial ;* but from the sense I feel, that it 
is the most difficult and the most compHcated cause, that was 
ever brought before any human tribunal. 

23* 



SPEECH OF MR. BURKE, 

ON THE IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ., ON OPENING THE 
CHARGE OF BRIBERY, FEBRUARY 18 AND 19, 1788. 

My Lords, 

The gentlemen who are appointed by the Commons to manage 
this prosecution, have directed me to inform your lordships, that 
they have very carefully and attentively weighed the magnitude 
of the subject, which they bring before you, with the tinae, which 
the nature and circumstances of affairs allows for their conduct- 
ing it. 

My lords, on that comparison they are very apprehensive, 
that, if I should go very largely into a preliminary explanation 
of the several matters in charge, it might be to the prejudice 
of an early trial of the substantial merits of each article. We 
have weighed and considered this maturely. We have com- 
pared exactly the time with the matter, and we have found, that 
we are obliged to do, as all men must do, who would manage 
their affairs practicably, to make our opinion, of what might 
be most advantageous to the business, conform to the time that 
is left to perform it in. We must, as all men must, submit affairs 
to time, and not think of making time conform to our wishes : 
and therefore, my lords, I very wilhngly fall in with the incli- 
nations of the gentlemen, with whom I have the honor to act, 
to come as soon as possible to close fighting, and to grapple 
immediately and directly with the corruptions of India ; to 
bring before your lordships the direct articles; to apply the 
evidence to the articles, and to bring the matter forward for 
your lordships' decision in that manner, which the confidence 
we have in the justice of our cause demands from the Com- 
mons of Great Britain. 

My lords, these are the opinions of those with whom I have 
the honor to act, and in their, opinions I readily acquiesce. For 
I am far from wishing to waste any of your lordships' time 
upon any matter merely through any opinion I have of the na- 
ture of the business, when at the same time I find, that in the 
opinion of others it might militate against the production of its 
full, proper, and (if I may so say) its immediate effect. 

It was my design to class the crimes of the late governor of 
Bengal — to show their mutual bearings — how they were mutu- 
ally aided, and grew and were formed out of each other. I 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 271 

proposed first of all to show your lordships, that they have their 
root in that, which, is the origin of all evil, avarice and rapa- 
city — to show how that led to prodigality .of the public money 
— and how prodigality of the public money, by wasting the 
treasures of the East India company, furnished an excuse to 
the governor-general to break its faith, to violate all its most 
solemn engagements, and to fall with a hand of stern, ferocious, 
and unrelenting rapacity upon all the allies and dependencies 
of the company. But I shall be obliged in some measure to 
abridge this plan ; and as your lordships already possess, from 
what I had the honor to state on Saturday, a general view of 
this matter, you will be in a condition to pursue it when the 
several articles are presented. 

My lords, I have to state to-day the root of all these misde- 
meanors — namely, the pecuniary corruption and avarice which 
gave rise and primary motion to all the rest of the dehnquen- 
cies, charged to be committed by the governor-general. 

My lords, pecuniary corruption forms not only, as your lord- 
ships will observe in the charges before you, an article of charge 
by itself, but likewise so intermixes with the whole, that it is 
necessary to give, in the best manner I am able, a history of 
that corrupt system, which brought on all the subsequent acts 
of corruption. I will venture to say, there is no one act, in 
which tyranny, malice, cruelty, and oppression can be charged, 
that does not at the same time carry evident marks of pecuniary 
corruption. 

I stated to your lordships on Saturday last, the principles 
upon which Mr. Hastings governed his conduct in India, and 
upon which he grounds his defence. These may all be re- 
duced to one short word, arbitrary power. My lords, if Mr. 
Hastings had contended, as other men have often done, that 
the system of government, which he patronizes, and on which 
he acted, was a system tending on the whole to the blessing 
and benefit of mankind, possibly something might be said for 
him for setting up so wild, absurd, irrational, and wicked a 
system. Something might be said to qualify the act from the 
intention ; but it is singular in this man, that, at the time he tells 
you he acted on the principles of arbitrary power, he takes 
care to inform you, that he was not bhnd to the consequences. 
Mr. Hastings foresaw that the consequence of this system was 
corruption. An arbitrary system indeed must always be a cor- 
rupt one. My lords, there never was a man who thought he 
had no law but his own will, who did not soon find that he had 
no end but his own profit. Corruption and arbitrary power are 
of natural unequivocal generation, necessarily producing one 
another. Mr. Hastings foresees the abusive and corrupt con- 



272 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

sequences, and then he justifies his conduct upon the necessities 
of that system. These are things which are new in the world ; 
for there never was a man, I beUeve, who contended for arbi- 
trary power (and there have been persons wicked and foolish 
enough to contend for it) that did not pretend, either that the 
system was good in itself, or that by their conduct they had 
mitigated or had purified it ; and that the poison by passing 
through their constitution had acquired salutary properties. 
But if you look at his defence before the House of Commons, 
you will see, that that very system, upon which he governed, 
and under which he now justifies his actions, did appear to 
himself a system pregnant with a thousand evils and a thou- 
sand mischiefs. 

The next thing, that is remarkable and singular in the prin- 
ciples, upon which the governor-general acted, is, that when he 
is engaged in a vicious system, which clearly leads to evil con- 
sequences, he thinks himself bound to realize all the evil conse- 
quences involved in that system. All other men have taken a 
directly contrary course ; they have said, I have been engaged 
in an evil system, that led indeed to mischievous consequences, 
but I have taken care by my own virtues to prevent the evils 
of the system, under which I acted. 

We say then, not only that he governed arbitrarily, but cor- 
ruptly, that is to say, that he was a giver and receiver of bribes, 
and formed a system for the purpose of giving and receiving 
them. We wish your lordships distinctly to consider, that he 
did not only give and receive bribes accidentally, as it happened 
without any system and design, merely as the opportunity or 
momentary temptation of profit urged him to it, but that he has 
formed plans and systems of government for the very purpose 
of accumulating bribes and presents to himself. This system 
of Mr. Hastings's government is such a one, I believe, as the 
British nation in particular will disown ; for I will venture to 
say, that, if there is any one thing, which distinguishes this 
nation eminently above another, it is, that in its offices at home, 
both judicial and in the state, there is less suspicion of pecuniai:y 
corruption attaching to them, than to any similar offices in any 
part of the globe, or that have existed at any time ; so that he, 
who would set up a system of corruption, and attempt to justify 
it upon the principle of utility, that man is staining not only the 
nature and character of office, but that, which is the peculiar 
glory of the official and judicial character of this country ; and 
therefore in this house, which is eminently the guardian of the 
purity of all the offices of this kingdom, he ought to be called 
eminently and peculiarly to account. There are many things 
undoubtedly in crimes, which make them frightful and odious ; 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 273 

but bribery, filthy hands, a chief governor of a great empire 
receiving bribes from poor miserable indigent people, this is 
what makes government itself base, contemptible and odious in 
the eyes of mankind. 

My lords, it is certain, that even tyranny itself may find 
some specious color, and appear as more severe and rigid exe- 
cution of justice. Religious persecution may shield itself under 
the guise of a mistaken and over-zealous piety. Conquest may 
cover its baldness with its own laurels, and the ambition of the 
conqueror may be hid in the secrets of his own heart under a 
veil of benevolence, and make him imagine he is bringing 
temporary desolation upon a country, only to promote its ulti- 
mate advantage and his own glory. But in the principles of 
that governor, who makes nothing but money hi^ object, there 
can be nothing of this. There are here none of those specious 
delusions, that look like virtues, to veil either the governed or 
the governor. If you look at Mr. Hastings's merits, as he 
calls them, what are they ? Did he improve the internal state of 
the government by great reforms 1 No such thing : or by a 
wise and incorrupt administration of justice 1 No. — Has he 
enlarged the boundary of our government ? No ; there are 
but too strong proofs of his lessening it. But his pretensions 
to merit are, that he squeezed more money out of the inhabit- 
ants of the country than other persons could have done — m.oney 
got by oppression, violence, extortion from the poor, or the 
heavy hand of power upon the i-ich and great. 

These are his merits. What we charge as his demerits are 
all of the same nature; for though there is undoubtedly oppres- 
sion, breach of faith, cruelty, perfidy, charged upon him, yet 
the great ruling principle of the whole, and that, from which 
you can never have an act free, is money — it is the vice of 
base avarice, which never is, nor ever appears even to the 
prejudices of mankind to be, anything like a virtue. Our 
desire of acquiring sovereignty in India undoubtedly originated 
first in ideas of safety and necessity ; its next step was a step 
of ambition. That ambition, as generally happens in conquest, 
was followed by gains of money ; but afterwards there was no 
mixture at all ; it was, during Mr. Hastings's time, altogether a 
business of money. If he has extirpated a nation, I will not 
say whether properly or improperly, it is because (says he) you 
have all the benefit of conquest without expense, you have got 
a large sum of money from the people, and you may leave 
them to be governed by whom, and as they will. This is di- 
rectly contrary to the principles of conquerors. If he has at 
any time taken any money from the dependencies of the com- 
pany, he does not pretend, that it was obtained from their zeal 

2K 



274 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

and affection to our cause, or that it made their submission 
more complete; very far from it. He says, they ought to be 
independent, and all, that you have to do, is to squeeze money 
from them. In short, money is the beginning, the middle, and 
the end of every kind of act done by Mr. Hastings — pretend- 
edly for the company, but really for himself. 

Having said so much about the origin, the first principle 
both of that, which he makes his merit, and which we charge 
as his demerit ; the next step is, that I should lay open to your 
lordships, as clearly as I can, what the sense of his employers, 
the East India company, and what the sense of the legislature 
itself has been upon those merits and demerits of money. 

My lords, the company, knowing that these money transac- 
tions were likeiy to subvert that empire, which was first estab- 
lished upon them, did, in the year 1765, send out a body of the 
strongest and most solemn covenants to their servants, that 
they should take no presents from the country powers under 
any name or description, except those things, which were pub- 
licly and openly taken for the use of the company, namely, ter- 
ritories or sums of money, which might be obtained by treaty. 
They distinguished such presents, as were taken from any per- 
sons privately and unknown to them, and without their authori- 
ty, from subsidies ; and that this is the true nature and con- 
struction of their order, I shall contend, and explain afterwards 
to your lordships. They have said, nothing shall be taken for 
their private use ; for though in that and in every state there 
may be subsidiary treaties, by which sums of money may be 
received, yet they forbid their servants, their governors, what- 
ever appKcation they might pretend to make of them, to receive, 
under any other name or pretence, more than a certain marked 
simple sum of money, and this not without the consent and 
permission of the presidency, to which they belong. This is 
the substance, the principle, and the spirit of the covenants, 
and will show your lordships how radicated an evil this of 
bribery and presents was judged to be. 

When these covenants arrived in India, the servants refused 
at first to execute them ; and suspended the execution of them, 
till they had enriched themselves with presents. Eleven months 
elapsed, and it was not till Lord Clive reached the place of his 
destination, that the covenants were executed ; and they were 
not executed then without some degree of force. Soon after- 
wards the treaty was made with the country powers, by which 
Shuja ul Dowla was re-established in the province of Oude, and 
paid a sum of 500,000/. to the company for it. It was a public 
payment, and there was not a suspicion, that a single shilling 
of private emolument attended it. But whether Mr. Hastings 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 275 

had the example of others or not, their example could not jus- 
tify his briberies. He was sent there to put an end to all those 
examples. The company did expressly vest him with that 
power. They declared at that time, that the w^hole of their 
service was totally corrupted by bribes and presents, and by 
extravagance and luxury, which partly gave rise to them ; and 
these in their turn enabled them to pursue those excesses. 
They not only reposed trust in the integrity of Mr. Hastings, 
but reposed trust in his remarkable frugality and order in his 
affairs, which they considered as things that distinguished his 
character. But in his defence we have him quite in another 
character, no longer the frugal attentive servant bred to busi- 
ness, bred to book-keeping, as all the company's servants are ; 
he now knows nothing of his own affairs, knows not whether 
he is rich or poor, knows not what he has in the world. Nay, 
people are brought forward to say, that they know better than 
he does what his affairs are. He is not like a careful man bred 
in a counting-house, and by the directors put into an office of 
the highest trust on account of the regularity of his affairs ; he 
is hke one buried in the contemplation of the stars, and knows 
nothing of the things in this world. It was then on account of 
an idea of his great integrity, that the company put him into 
this situation. Since that he has thought proper to justify him- 
self, not by clearing himself of receiving bribes, but by saying, 
that no bad consequences resulted from it, and that, if any 
such evil consequences did arise from it, they arose rather 
from his inattention to money than from his desire of ac- 
quiring it. 

I have stated to your lordships the nature of the covenants, 
which the East India company sent out. Afterwards, when 
they found their servants had refused to execute these cove- 
nants, they not only very severely reprehended even a mo- 
ment's delay in their execution, and threatened the exacting 
the most strict and rigorous performance of them, but they 
sent a commission to enforce the observance of them more 
strongly ; and that commission had it specially in charge never 
to receive presents. They never sent out a person to India 
without recognizing the grievance, and without ordering, that 
presents should not be received, as the main fundamental part 
of their duty, and upon which all the rest depended, as it cer- 
tainly must : for persons at the head of government should not 
encourage that by example, which they ought by precept, au- 
thority and force, to restrain in all below them. That com- 
mission failing, another commission was preparing to be sent 
out with the same instructions, when an act of parliament took 
it up: and that act, which gave Mr. Hastings power, did 



276 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

mould in the very first stamina of his power this principle, in 
words the most clear and forcible, that an act of parliament 
could possibly devise upon the subject. And that act was 
made not only upon a general knowledge of the grievance, but 
your lordships will see in the reports of that time, that parlia- 
ment had directly in view before them the whole of that mon- 
strous head of corruption under the name of presents, and all 
the monstrous consequences, that followed it. 

Now, my lords, every oiiice of trust, in its very nature, for- 
bids the receipt of bribes. But Mr. Hastings was forbidden it, 
first, by his official situation; next by covenant; and lastly by 
act of parhament — that is to say, by all the things, that bind 
mankind, or that can bind them, — first, moral obligation in- 
herent in the duty of their office ; next, the positive injunctions 
of the legislature of the country ; and lastly, a man's own pri- 
vate, particular, voluntary act and covenant. These three, 
the great and only obligations that bind mankind, all united in 
the focus of this single point — that they should take no presents. 

I am to mark to your lordships, that this law and this cove- 
nant did consider indirect w^ays of taking presents — taking 
them by others, and such like, — directly in the very same light 
as they considered taking them by themselves. It is perhaps a 
much more dangerous way, because it adds to the crime a 
false prevaricating mode of conceahng it, and makes it much 
more mischievous by admitting others into the participation of 
it. Mr. Hastings has said, and it is one of the general com- 
plaints of Mr. Hastings, that he is made answerable for the 
acts of other men. It is a thing inherent in the nature of his 
situation. All those, who enjoy a great superintending trust, 
w^hich is to regulate the whole affairs of an empire, are respon- 
sible for the acts and conduct of other men, so far as they had 
anything to do with appointing them, or holding them in their 
places, or having any sort of inspection into their conduct. 

But when a governor presumes to remove from their situa- 
tions those persons, whom the pubhc authority and sanction of 
the company have appointed, and obtrudes upon them by vio- 
lence other persons, superseding the orders of his masters, he 
becomes doubly responsible for their conduct. If the persons 
he names should be of notorious evil character and evil princi- 
ples, and if this should be perfectly known to himself, and of 
public notoriety to the rest of the world, then another strong 
responsibility attaches on him for the acts of those persons. 

Governors, we know very well, cannot with their own hands 
be continually receiving bribes ; for then they must have as 
many hands, as one of the idols in an Indian temple, in order 
to receive all the bribes, which a governor-general may re- 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 277 

ceive; but they have them vicariously. As there are many 
offices, so he has had various officers, for receiving and dis- 
tributing his bribes ; he has had a great many, some white and 
some black, agents. The white men are loose and hcentious ; 
they are apt to have resentments, and to be bold in revenging 
them. The black men are very secret and mysterious ; they 
are not apt to have very quick resentments, they have not the 
same liberty and boldness of language, which characterize Eu- 
ropeans; and they have fears too for themselves, which makes 
it more likely, that they will conceal anything committed to 
them by Europeans. Therefore Mr. Hastings had his black 
agents, not one, two, three, but many, disseminated through 
the country ; no two of them hardly appear to be in the secret 
of any one bribe. He has had likewise his white agents — they 
were necessary — a Mr. Larkins and a Mr. Crofts. Mr. Crofts 
was sub-tre 'U'er, and Mr. Larkins accountant-general. These 
were the last persons of all others, that should have had any- 
thing to do with bribes ; yet these were some of his agents in 
bribery. There are few instances in comparison of the whole 
number of bribes, but there are some, where two men are in 
the secret of the same bribe. Nay, it appears, that there was 
one bribe divided into different payments at different times — 
that one part was committed to one black secretary — another 
part to another black secretary. So that it is almost impossible 
to make up a complete body of all his bribery : you may find 
the scattered limbs, some here, and others there; and while you 
are employed in picking them up, he may escape entirely in a 
prosecution for the whole. 

The first act of his government in Bengal was the most bold 
and extraordinary, that I beheve ever entered into the head of 
any man, I will say, of any tyrant. It was no more or less 
than a general (almost exceptless) confiscation, in time of pro- 
found peace, of all the landed property in Bengal, upon most 
extraordinary pretences. Strange as this may appear, he did 
so confiscate it ; he put it up to a pretended public, in reality 
to a private, corrupt auction ; and such favored landholders, as 
came to it, were obliged to consider themselves as not any 
longer proprietors of the estates, but to recognize themselves 
as farmers under government : and even those few, that were 
permitted to remain on their estates, had their payments raised 
at his arbitrary discretion; and the rest of the lands were 
given to farmers general, appointed by him and his committee, 
at a price fixed by the same arbitrary discretion. 

It is necessary to inform your lordships, that the revenues of 
Bengal are for the most part territorial revenues, great quit- 
rents issuing out of lands. I shall say nothing either of the 

24 



278 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

nature of this property, of the rights of the people to it, or of 
the mode of exacting the rents, till that great question of reve- 
nues, one of the greatest which we shall have to lay before 
you, shall be brought before your lordships particularly and 
specially as an article of charge. I only mention it now as an 
exemplification of the great principle of corruption, which 
guided Mr. Hastings's conduct. 

When the ancient nobility, the great princes (for such I may 
call them) a nobility, perhaps, as ancient as that of your lord- 
ships (and a more truly noble body never existed in that char- 
acter ;) my lords, when all the nobiUty, some of whom have 
borne the rank and port of princes, all the gentry, all the free- 
holders of the country, had their estates in that manner confis- 
cated, that is, either given to themselves to hold on the footing 
of farmers, or totally confiscated ; when such an act of tyranny 
was done, no doubt, some good was pretended. This confis- 
cation was made by Mr. Hastings, and the lands let to these 
farmers for five years, upon an idea, which always accompanies 
his acts of oppression, the idea of moneyed merit. He adopted 
this mode of confiscating the estates, and letting them to 
farmers, for the avowed purpose of seeing how much it was 
possible to take out of them. Accordingly he set them up to 
this wild and wicked auction, as it would have been, if it had 
been a real one — corrupt and treacherous, as it was. He set 
these lands up for the purpose of making that discovery, and 
pretended, that the discovery would yield a most amazing 
increase of rent. And for some time it appeared so to do, till 
it came to the touchstone of experience ; and then it was found, 
that there was a defalcation from these monstrous raised reve- 
nues, which were to cancel in the minds of the directors the 
wickedness of so atrocious, flagitious, and horrid an act of 
treachery. At the end of five years, what do you think was 
the failure ? — No less than 2,050,000/. Then a new source of 
corruption was opened, that is, how to deal with the balances : 
for every man, who had engaged in these transactions, was a 
debtor to government, and the remission of that debt depended 
upon the discretion of the governor general. Then the persons, 
who were to settle the composition of that immense debt, who 
were to see how much was recoverable, and how much not, 
were able to favor, or to exact to the last shilHng ; and there 
never existed a doubt, but that, not only upon the original cruel 
exaction, but upon the remission afterwards, immense gains 
were derived. This will account for the manner, in which 
those stupendous fortunes, which astonish the world, have been 
made. They have been made — first, by a tyrannous exaction 
from the people, who were suflfered to remain in possession of 



IMPEACHxMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 279 

their own land as farmers, then by selling the rest to farmers 
at rents and under hopes, which could never be realized, and 
then getting money for the relaxation of their debts. But 
whatever excuse, and however wicked, there might have been 
for this wicked act, namely, that it carried upon the face of it 
some sort of appearance of public good, that is to say, that sort 
of pubhc good, which Mr. Hastings so often professed, of 
ruining the country for the benefit of the company ; yet, in fact, 
this business of balances is that nidus, in which have been 
nestled and bred and born all the corruptions of India ; — first, 
by making extravagant demands, and afterwards by making 
corrupt relaxations of them. 

Besides this monstrous failure in consequence of a miserable 
exaction, by which more was attempted to be forced from the 
country than it was capable of yielding, and this by way of 
experiment, when your lordships come to inquire who the far- 
mers-general of the revenue were, you would naturally expect 
to find them to be the men in the several countries, who had 
the most interest, the greatest wealth, the best knowledge of the 
revenue and resources of the country, in which they lived. 
These would be thought the natural proper farmers-general of 
each district. No such thing, my lords. They are found in 
the body of people, whom I have mentioned to your lordships. 
They were almost all let to Calcutta banyans. Calcutta ban- 
yans were the farmers of almost the whole. They sub- 
delegated to others, who sometimes had sub-delegates under 
them ad infinitum. The whole formed a system together through 
the succession of black tyrants scattered through the country, 
in which you at last find the European at the end, sometimes 
indeed not hid very deep, not above one between him and the 
farmer, namely, his banyan directly, or some other black per- 
son to represent him. But some have so managed the affair, 
that when you inquire who the farmer is — Was such a one 
farmer ? — No. Cantoo Baboo ? — No. Another ? — No : at last 
you find three deep of fictitious farmers, and you find the 
European gentlemen, high in place and authority, the real farm- 
ers of the settlement. So that the zemindars were dispossessed, 
the country racked and ruined for the benefit of an European, 
under the name of a farmer : for you will easily judge whether 
these gentlemen had fallen so deeply in love with the banyans, 
and thought so highly of their merits and services, as to reward 
them with all the possessions of the great landed interest of the 
country. Your lordships are too grave, wise and discerning, 
to make it necessary for me to say more upon that subject. 
Tell me, that the banyans of English gentlemen, dependants on 
them at Calcutta, were the farmers throughout, and I believe 



280 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

I need not tell your lordships, for whose benefit they were 
farmers. 

But there is one of these, who comes so nearly, indeed so 
precisely within this observation, that it is impossible for me to 
pass him by. Whoever has heard of Mr. Hastings's name, 
with any knowledge of Indian connexions, has heard of his 
banyan Cantoo Baboo. This man is well known in the records 
of the company, as his agent for receiving secret gifts, confis- 
cations, and presents. You would have imagined, that he would 
at least have kept him out of these farms, in order to give the 
measure a color at least of disinterestedness, and to show that . i 
this whole system of corruption and pecuniary oppression was |{ 
carried on for the benefit of the company. The governor-gene- ' 
ral and council made an ostensible order, by which no collector, 
or person concerned in the revenue, should have any connex- 
ion with these farms. This order did not include the governor- 
general in the words of it, but more than included him in the j 
spirit of it : because his power to protect a farmer-general in ' 
the person of his own servant was infinitely greater than that 
of any subordinate person. Mr. Hastings, in breach of this 
order, gave farms to his own banyan. You find him the farmer 
of great, of vast, and extensive farms. 

Another regulation that was made on that occasion, was, 
that no farmer should have, except in particular cases, which 
were marked, described, and accurately distinguished, a greater 
farm than what paid 10,000/. a year to government. Mr. Hast- 
ings, who had broken the first regulation by giving any farm 
at all to his banyan, finding himself bolder, broke the second 
too, and, instead of 10,000/. gave him farms paying a revenue 
of 130,000/. a year to government. Men undoubtedly have 
been known to be under the dominion of their domestics : such 
things have happened to great men ; they never have happened 
justifiably, in my opinion. They have never happened excusa- 
bly ; but we are acquainted sufficiently with the weakness of 
human nature to know that a domestic, who has served you in 
a near office long, and in your opinion faithfully, does become 
a kind of relation : it brings on a great afl^ection and regard 
for his interest. Now was this the case with Mr. Hastings and 
Cantoo Baboo ? Mr. Hastings was just arrived at his govern- 
ment, and Cantoo Baboo had been but a year in his service ; 
so that he could not in that time have contracted any great de- 
gree of friendship for him. These people do not live in your 
house; the Hindoo servants never sleep in it ; they cannot eat 
with your servants ; they have no second table, in which they 
can be continually about j^ou, to be domesticated with yourself, 
a part of your being, as people's servants are to a certain de- 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 281 

gree. These persons live all abroad ; they come at stated hours 
upon matters of business, and nothing more. But if it had been 
otherwise, Mr. Hastings's connexion with Cantoo Baboo had 
been but of a year's standing : he had l^efore served in that ca- 
pacity Mr. Sykes, who recommended him to Mr. Hastings. 
Your lordships then are to judge, whether such outrageous vio- 
lations of all the principles, by which Mr. Hastings pretended 
to be guided in the settlement of these farms, were for the 
benefit of this old, decayed, affectionate servant of one year's 
standing — your lordships will judge of that. 

I have here spoken only of the beginning of a great noto- 
rious system of corruption ; which branched out so many 
ways, and into such a variety of abuses, and has afflicted that 
kingdom with such horrible evils from that day to this, that I 
will venture to say it will make one of the greatest, weightiest, 
and most material parts of the charge, that is now before you ; 
as I beheve I need not tell your lordships, that an attempt to 
set up the whole landed interest of a kingdom to auction must 
.be attended, not only in that act, but every consequential act, 
with most grievous and terrible consequences. 

My lords, I will now come to a scene of peculation of an- 
other kind ; namely, a peculation by the direct sale of offices of 
justice ; by the direct sale of the successions of families ; by 
the sale of guardianships, and trusts, held most sacred among 
the people of India ; by the sale of them, not as before to farm- 
ers, not as you might imagine to near relations of the fami- 
lies, but a sale of them to the unfaithful servants of those fami- 
lies, their own perfidious servants, who had ruined their estates, 
who, if any balances had accrued to the government, had been 
the cause of those debts. Those very servants were put in 
power over their estates, their persons and their families by Mr. 
Hastings for a shameful price. It will be proved to your lord- 
ships in the course of this business, that Mr. Hastings has done 
this in another sacred trust, the most sacred trust a man can 
have ; that is, in the case of those vackiels (as they call them) 
agents, or attorneys, who had been sent to assert and support 
the rights of their miserable masters before the council-general. 
It will be proved, that these vackiels were by Mr. Hastings, for 
a price to be paid for it, put in possession of the very power, 
situation, and estates of those masters, who sent them to Cal- 
cutta to defend them from wrong and violence. The selling 
offices of justice, the sale of succession in families, of guardian- 
ships and other sacred trusts, the selling masters to their ser^ 
vants, and principals to the attorneys they employed to defend 
themselves, were all parts of the same system ; and these were 

2 L 24* 



283 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

the horrid ways, in which he received bribes beyond any com- 
mon rate. 

When Mr. Hastings was appointed in the year 1773 to be 
governor-general of Bengal, together with Mr. Barwell, Gene- 
ral Clavering, Colonel Monson, and Mr. Francis, the company, 
knowing the former corrupt state of their service (but the 
whole corrupt system of Mr. Hastings at that time not being 
known, or even suspected at home) did order them, in discharge 
of the spirit of the act of parliament, to make an inquiry into 
all manner of corruptions and malversations in office, without 
the exception of any persons whatever. Your lordships are to 
know, that the act did expressly authorize the court of direc- 
tors to frame a body of instructions, and to give orders to their 
new servants, appointed under the act of parliament, lest it 
should be supposed, that they, by their appointment under the 
act, could supersede the authority of the directors. 

The directors, sensible of the power left in them over their 
servants by the act of parliament, though their nomination was 
taken from them, did, agreeably to the spirit and power of that 
act, give this order. 

The council consisted of two parties ; Mr. Hastings and Mr. 
Barwell, who were chosen, and kept there, upon the idea of 
their local knowledge ; and the other three, who were appoint- 
ed on account of their great parts and known integrity. And 
I will venture to say, that those three gentlemen did so execute 
their duty in India in all the substantial parts of it, that they will 
serve as a shield to cover the honor of England, whenever this 
country is upbraided in India. 

They found a rumor running through the country of great 
peculations and oppressions. Soon after, when it was known, 
what their instructions were, and that the council was ready, 
as is the first duty of all governors, even when there is no ex- 
press order, to receive complaints against the oppressions and 
corruptions of government in any part of it — they found such 
a body (and that body shall be produced to your lordships) of 
corruption and peculation in every walk, in every department, in 
every situation of life, in the sale of the most sacred trusts, and 
in the destruction of the most ancient families of the country, 
as I believe in so short a time never was unveiled since the 
world began. 

Your lordships would imagine, that Mr. Hastings would at 
least ostensibly have taken some part in endeavoring to bring 
these corruptions before the public, or that he would at least 
have acted with some little management in his opposition. But 
alas ! it was not in his power ; there was not one, I think, but I 
am sure very few, of these general articles of corruption, in 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 283 

which the most eminent figure in the crowd, the principal 
figure as it were in the piece, was not Mr. Hastings himself. 
There were a great many others involved ; for all departments 
were corrupted and vitiated. But you could not open a page, 
in which you did not see Mr. Hastings, or in which you did not 
see Cantoo Baboo. Either the black or white side of Mr. 
Hastings constantly was visible to the world in every part of 
these transactions. 

With the other gentlemen, who were visible too, I have at 
present no dealing. Mr. Hastings, instead of using any man- 
agement on that occasion, instantly set up his power and 
authority, directly against the majority of the council, directly 
against his colleagues, directly against the authority of the 
East India company and the authority of the act of parliament, 
to put a dead stop to all these inquiries. He broke up the 
council the moment they attempted to perform this part of their 
duty. As the evidence multiplied upon him, the daring exer- 
tions of his power in stopping all inquiries increased continually. 
But he gave a credit and authority to the evidence by these 
attempts to suppress it. 

Your lordships have heard, that among the body of the ac- 
cusers of this corruption there was a principal man in the 
country, a man of the first rank and authority in it, called 
Nundcomar, who had the management of revenues amounting 
to 150,000/. a year, and who had, if really inclined to play the 
small game with which he has been charged by his accusers, 
abundant means to gratify himself in playing great ones ; but 
Mr. Hastings has himself given him, upon the records of the 
company, a character, which would at least justify the council 
in making some inquiry into charges made by him. 

First, he was perfectly competent to make them, because he 
was in the management of those affairs, from which Mr. Hast- 
ings is supposed to have received corrupt emolument. He and 
his son were the chief managers in those transactions. He 
was, therefore, perfectly competent to it. — Mr. Hastings has 
cleared his character ; for, though it is true in the contradic- 
tions, in which Mr. Hastings has entangled himself, he has 
abused and insulted him, and particularly after his appearance, 
as an accuser, yet before this he has given this testimony of 
him, that the hatred, that had been drawn upon him, and the 
general obloquy of the English nation, was on account of his 
attachment to his own prince and the liberties of his country. 
Be he what he might, I am not disposed, nor have I the least 
occasion, to defend either his conduct or his memory. 

It is to no purpose for Mr. Hastings to spend time in idle 
objections to the character of Nundcomar. Let him be as bad 



i 

1th I 



284 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

as Mr. Hastings represents him. I suppose he was a caballing 
bribing, intriguing politician, like others in that country, both 
black and white. We know, associates in dark and evil actions 
are not generally the best of men; but be that as it will, it 
generally happens, that they are the best of all discoverers. If 
Mr. Hastings were the accuser of Nundcomar, I should think 
the presumptions equally strong against Nundcomar, if he had 
acted as Mr. Hastings has acted. He was not only competent, 
but the most competent of all men to be Mr. Hastings's ac- 
cuser. But Mr. Hastings has himself established both his 
character, and his competency, by employing him against Ma- 
homed Reza Khan. He shall not blow hot and cold. In what 
respect was Mr. Hastings better than Mahomed Reza Khan, 
that the whole rule, principle, and system of accusation and 
inquiry should be totally reversed in general, nay, reversed in 
the particular instance, the moment he became accuser against 
Mr. Hastings. Such was the accuser. He was the man, that 
gave the bribes, and, in addition to his own evidence, offers 
proof by other witnesses. 

What was the accusation ? Was the accusation improbable, 
either on account of the subject-matter, or the actor in it ? Does 
such an appointment as that of Munny Begum in the most 
barefaced evasion of his orders appear to your lordships a 
matter, that contains no just presumptions of guilt? so that 
when a charge of bribery comes upon it, you are prepared to 
reject it, as if the action were so clear and proper, that no man 
could attribute it to an improper motive ? And, as to the man, 
is Mr. Hastings a man, against whom a charge of bribery is 
improbable? Why, he owns it. He is a professor of it. He 
reduces it into scheme and system. He glories in it. He turns 
it to merit, and declares it is the best way of supplying the 
exigencies of the company. Why therefore should it be held 
improbable? — But I cannot mention this proceeding without 
shame and horror. 

My lords, when this man appeared as an accuser of Mr. 
Hastings, if he was a man of bad character, it was a great 
advantage to Mr. Hastings to be accused by a man of that 
description. There was no likelihood of any great credit being 
given to him. 

This person, who, in one of those sales, of which I have al- 
ready given you some account in the history of the last period 
of the revolutions of Bengal, had been, or thought he had been, 
cheated of his money, had made some discoveries, and been 
guilty of that great irremissible sin in India, the disclosure of 
peculation. He afterwards came with a second disclosure, and 
was likely to have odium enough upon the occasion. He di- 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 285 

rectly charged Mr. Hastings with the receipt of bribes amount- 
ing together to about 40,000/. sterhng, given by himself, on his 
own account, and that of Munny Begum. The charge was 
accompanied with every particular, which could facilitate 
proof or detection, time, place, persons, species, to whom paid, 
by whom received. Here was a fair opportunity for Mr. 
Hastings at once to defeat the malice of his enemies, and to 
clear his character to the world. His course was different. 
He railed much at the accuser, but did not attempt to. refute 
the accusation. He refuses to permit the inquiry to go on, at- 
tempts to dissolve the council, commands his banyan not to at- 
tend. The council however goes on, examines to the bottom, 
and resolves, that the charge was proved, and that the money 
ought to go to the company. Mr. Hastings then broke up the 
council, I will not say whether legally or illegally. The com- 
pany's law counsel thought he might legally do it ; but he cor- 
ruptly did it, and left mankind no room to judge but that it was 
done for the screening of his own guilt ; for a man may use a 
legal power corruptly, and for the most shameful and detestable 
purposes. And thus matters continued, till he commenced a 
criminal prosecution against this man — this man, whom he 
dared not meet as a defendant. 

Mr. Hastings, instead of answering the charge, attacks the 
accuser. Instead of meeting the man in front, he endeavored 
to go round, to come upon his flanks and rear, but never to 
meet him in the face upon the ground of his accusation, as he 
was bound by the express authority of law, and the express 
injunctions of the directors, to do. If the bribery is not ad- 
mitted on the evidence of Nundcomar, yet his suppressing it is 
a crime — a violation of the orders of the court of directors. 
He disobeyed those instructions ; and if it be only for disobe- 
dience, for rebellion against his masters (putting the corrupt 
motive out of the question), I charge him for this disobedience, 
and especially on account of the principles, upon which he 
proceeded in it. 

Then he took another step; he accused Nundcomar of a 
conspiracy, which was a way he then and ever since has used, 
whenever means were taken to detect any of his own iniquities. 

And here it becomes necessary to mention another circum- 
stance of history, that the legislature, not trusting entirely to 
the governor-general and council, had sent out a court of jus- 
tice to be a counter security against these corruptions, and to 
detect and punish any such misdemeanors as might appear. 
And this court I take for granted has done great services. 

Mr. Hastings flew to this court, which was meant to protect 
in their situations informers against bribery and corruption, 



286 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

rather than to protect the accused from any of the preliminary- 
methods, which must indispensably be used for the purpose of 
detecting their guilt ; he flew to this court, charging this Nund- 
comar and others with being conspirators. 

A man might be convicted as a conspirator, and yet after- 
wards live ; he might put the matter into other hands, and go 
on with his information ; nothing less than stone-dead would do 
the business. And here happened an odd concurrence of cir- 
cumstances. Long before Nundcomar preferred his charge, he 
knew, that Mr. Hastings was plotting his ruin, and that for this 
purpose he had used a man, whom he, Nundcomar, had turned 
out of doors, called Mohun Persaud. Mr. Hastings had seen 
papers put upon the board, charging him with this previous 
plot for the destruction of Nundcomar; and this identical per- 
son, Mohun Persaud, whom Nundcomar had charged as Mr. 
Hastings's associate in plotting his ruin, was now again brought 
forward, as the principal evidence against him. I will not 
enter (God forbid I should) into the particulars of the subse- 
quent trial of Nundcomar ; but you will find the marks and 
characters of it to be these. You will find a close connexion 
between Mr. Hastings and the chief justice, which we shall 
prove. We shall prove, that one of the witnesses, who ap- 
peared there, was a person, who had been before, or has since 
been, concerned with Mr. Hastings in his most iniquitous trans- 
actions. You will find what is very odd, that in this trial for 
forgery, with which this man stood charged, forgery in a pri- 
vate transaction, all the persons, who were witnesses, or parties 
to it, had been, before or since, the particular friends of Mr. 
Hastings — in short, persons from that rabble, with whom Mr. 
Hastings was concerned, both before and since, in various 
transactions and negotiations of the most criminal kind. But 
the law took its course. I have nothing more to say than that , 
the man is gone — hanged justly if you please; and that it did | 
so happen luckily for Mr. Hastings — it so happened, that the 
relief of Mr. Hastings and the justice of the court, and the re- 
solution never to relax its rigor, did all concur just at a happy i 
nick of time and moment ; and Mr. Hastings accordingly had i 
the full benefit of them all. J 

His accuser was supposed to be what men may be, and yet - 
very competent for accusers — namely, one of his accomplices 
in guilty actions ; one of those persons who may have a great 
deal to say of bribes. All that I contend for, is, that he was 
in the closest intimacy with Mr. Hastings, was in a situation 
for giving bribes; and that Mr. Hastings was proved afterwards 
to have received a sum of money from him, which may be well 
referred to bribes. 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 287 

This example had its use in the way in which it was intended 
to operate, and in which alone it could operate. It did not dis- 
courage forgeries ; they went on at their usual rate, neither 
more nor less. Bat it put an end to all accusations against all 
persons in power for any corrupt practice. Mr. Hastings ob- 
serves, that no man in India complains of him. It is generally 
true. The voice of all India is stopped. All complaint was 
strangled with the same cord that strangled Nundcomar. This 
murdered not only that accuser, but all future accusation; and 
not only defeated, but totally vitiated and reversed, all the ends 
for which this country, to its eternal and indelible dishonor, had 
sent out a pompous embassy of justice to the remotest parts of 
the globe. 

But though Nundcomar was put out of the way by the means 
by which he was removed, a part of the charge was not stran- 
gled with him. Whilst the process against Nundcomar was 
carrying on before Sir Elijah Impey, the process was continu- 
ing against Mr. Hastings in other modes ; the receipt of a part 
of those bribes from Munny Begum to the amount of 15,000/. 
was proved against him ; and that a sum, to the same amount, 
was to be paid to his associate, Mr. Middleton, as it was proved 
at Calcutta, so it will be proved at your lordships' bar, to your 
entire satisfaction, by records and living testimony now in Eng- 
land. It was indeed obhquely admitted by Mr. Hastings him- 
self. 

The excuse for this bribe, fabricated by Mr. Hastings, and 
taught to Munny Begum, when he found that she was obliged 
to prove it against him, was, that it was given to him for his 
entertainment, according to some pretended custom, at the rate 
of 200Z. sterling a day, whilst he remained at Moorshedabad. 
My lords, this leads me to a few reflections on the apology or 
defence of this bribe. We shall certainly I hope render it clear 
to your lordships, that it was not paid in this manner, as a daily 
allowance, but given in a gross sum. But take it in his own 
way, it was no less illegal, and no less contrary to his cove- 
nant; but if true under the circumstances, it was a horrible 
aggravation of his crime. The first thing that strikes, is, that 
visits from Mr. Hastings are pretty severe things ; and hospi- 
tality at Moorshedabad is an expensive virtue, though for pro- 
vision it is one of the cheapest countries in the universe. No 
wonder that Mr. Hastings lengthened his visit, and made it ex- 
tend near three months. Such hosts and such guests cannot 
be soon parted. Two hundred pounds a day for a visit ! it is 
at the rate of 73,000/. a year for himself; and as I find his 
companion was put on the same allowance, it will be 146,000/. 
a year for hospitality to two English gentlemen. 



288 ' MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

I believe that there is not a prince in Europe, who goes to 
such expensive hospitahty of splendor. But that you may judge 
of the true nature of this hospitality of corruption, I must bring 
before you the business of the visiter, and the condition of the 
host, as stated by Mr.' Hastings himself, who best knows what 
he was doing. 

He was then at the old capital of Bengal, at the time of this 
expensive entertainment, on a business of retrenchment, and for 
the establishment of a most harsh, rigorous, and oppressive 
economy. He wishes the task were assigned to spirits of a less 
gentle kind. By Mr. Hastings's account, he was giving daily 
and hourly wounds to his humanity, in depriving of their sus- 
tenance hundreds of persons of the ancient nobility of a great 
fallen kingdom. Yet it was in the midst of this galling duty, 
it was at that very moment of his tender sensibility, that from 
the collected morsels plucked from the famished mouths of hun- 
dreds of decayed, indigent, and starving nobility, he gorged 
his ravenous maw with 200/. a day for his entertainment. In 
the course of all this proceeding, your lordships w411 not fail to 
observe, he is never corrupt, but he is cruel ; he never dines 
with comfort, but where he is sure to create a famine. He 
never robs from the loose superfluity of standing greatness ; 
he devours the fallen, the indigent, the necessitous. His extor- 
tion is not like the generous rapacity of the princely eagle, who 
snatches away the living, struggling prey : he is a vulture, who 
feeds upon the prostrate, the dying, and the dead. As his cru- 
elty is more shocking than his corruption, so his hypocrisy has 
something more frightful than his cruelty. For whilst his bloody 
and rapacious hand signs proscriptions, and now sweeps away 
the food of the widow and the orphan, his eyes overflow with 
tears, and he converts the healing balm, that bleeds from 
wounded humanity, into a rancorous and deadly poison to the 
race of man. 

Well, there was an end to this tragic entertainment, this feast 
of Tantalus. The few left on the pension-list, the poor rem- 
nants, that had escaped, were they paid by his administratrix 
and deputy, Munny Begum ? Not a shilHng. No fewer than 
forty-nine petitions, mostly from the widows of the greatest 
and most splendid houses of Bengal, came before the council, 
praying in the most deplorable manner for some sort of relief 
out of the pittance assigned them. His colleagues. General 
Clavering, Colonel Monson, and Mr. Francis, men, who, when 
England is reproached for the government of India, will, I re- 
peat it, as a shield be held up between this nation and infamy, 
did, in conformity to the strict orders of the directors, appoint 
Mahomed Reza Khan to his old offices — that is, to the general 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 289 

superintendency of the household and the administration of 
justice, a person, who, by his authority, might keep some or- 
der in the ruUng family and in the state. The court of directors 
authorized them to assure those offices to him, with a salary 
reduced indeed to 30,000Z. a year, during his good behavior. 
But Mr. Hastings, as soon as he obtained a majority by the 
death of the two best men ever sent to India, notwithstanding 
the orders of the court of directors, in spite of the public faith 
solemnly pledged to Mahomed Reza Khan, without a shadow 
of complaint, had the audacity to dispossess him of all his of- 
fices, and appoint his bribing patroness, the old dancing-girl, 
Munny Begum, once more to the viceroyalty and all its attend- 
ant honors and functions. 

The pretence was more insolent and shameless than the act. 
Modesty does not long survive innocence. He brings forward 
the miserable pageant of the nabob, as he called him, to be the 
instrument of his own disgrace, and the scandal of his family 
and government. He makes him to pass by his mother, and 
to petition us to appoint Munny Begum once more to the ad- 
ministration of the viceroyalty. He distributed Mahomed Reza 
Khan's salary as a spoil. 

When the orders of the court to restore Mahomed Reza 
Khan, with their opinion on the corrupt cause of his removal, 
and a second time to pledge to him the public faith for his con- 
tinuance, were received, Mr. Hastings, who had been just be- 
fore a pattern of obedience, when the despoiling, oppressing, 
imprisoning, and persecuting this man was the object, yet when 
the order was of a beneficial nature, and pleasant to a well- 
formed mind, he at once loses all his old principles, he grows 
stubborn and refractory, and refuses obedience. And. in this 
sullen, uncomplying mood he continues, until, to gratify Mr. 
Francis in an agreement on some of their differences, he con- 
sented to his proposition of obedience to the appointment of the 
court of directors. He grants to his arrangement of conveni- 
ence what he had refused to his duty, and replaces that magis- 
trate. But mark the double character of the man, never true 
to anything but fraud and duplicity. At the same time that he 
publicly replaces this magistrate, pretending compliance with 
his colleague, and obedience to his masters, he did, in defiance 
of his own and the public faith, privately send an assurance to 
the nabob — that is, to Munny Begum; informs her, that he was 
compelled by necessity to the present arrangement in favor of 
Mahomed Reza Khan ; but that on the first opportunity he 
would certainly displace him again. And he kept faith with 
his corruption ; and to show how vainly any one sought pro- 
1 lection in the lawful authority of this kingdom, he displaced 
I 2 M 25 



290 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

Mahomed Reza Khan from the lieutenancy and controllership, 
leaving him only the judicial department miserably curtailed. 

But does he adhere to his old pretence of freedom to the 
nabob ? No such thing. He appoints an absolute master to him 
under the name of resident, a creature of his personal favor, 
Sir J. Doiley, from whom there is not one syllable of corre- 
spondence, and not one item of account. How grievous this 
yoke was to that miserable captive, appears by a paper of Mr. 
Hastings, in which he acknowledges, that the nabob had offer- 
ed, out of the 160,000/. payable to him yearly, to give up to the 
company no less than 40,000/. a year, in order to have the free 
disposal of the rest. On this all comment is superfluous. Your 
lordships are furnished with a standard, by which you may es- 
timate his real receipt from the revenue assigned to him, the 
nature of the pretended residency, and its predatory effects. 
It will give full credit to what was generally rumored and 
believed, that substantially and beneficially the nabob never 
received 50 out of the 160,000 pounds; which will account 
for his known poverty, and wretchedness, and that of all about 
him. 

Thus, by his corrupt traffic of bribes with one scandalous 
woman, he disgraced and enfeebled the native Mahomedan gov- 
ernment, captived the person of the sovereign, and ruined and 
subverted the justice of the country. What is worse, the steps 
taken for the murder of Nundcomar, his accuser, have con- 
firmed and given sanction not only to the corruptions then 
practised by the governor-general, but to all, of which he has 
since been guilty. This will furnish your lordships with some 
general idea, which will enable you to judge of the bribe, for 
which he sold the country government. 

Under this head you will have produced to you full proof of 
his sale of a judicial office to a person called Khan Jehan Khan, 
and the modes he took to frustrate all inquiry on that subject 
upon a wicked and false pretence, that according to his religious 
scruples he could not be sworn. 

The great end and object I have in view is to show the 
criminal tendency, the mischievous nature, of these crimes, and 
the means taken to elude their discovery. I am now giving 
your lordships that general view, which may serve to charac- 
terize Mr. Hastings's administration in all the other parts of it. 

It was not true in fact (as Mr. Hastings gives out) that there 
was nothing now against him, and that when he had got rid of 
Nundcomar and his charge, he got rid of the whole. No such 
things An immense load of charges of bribery remained. 
They were coming afterwards from every part of the province ; 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 291 

and there was no office in the execution of justice, which he 
was not accused of having sold in the most flagitious manner. 

After all this thundering, the sky grew calm and clear, and 
Mr. Hastings sat with recorded peculation, with peculation 
proved upon oath on the minutes of that very council — he sat 
at the head of that council and that board where his peculations 
were proved against him. These were afterwards transmitted, 
and recorded in the registers of his masters, as an eternal 
monument of his corruption, and of his high disobedience, and 
flagitious attempts to prevent a discovery of the various pecu- 
lations, of which he had been guilty, to the disgrace and ruin 
of the country committed to his care. 

Mr. Hastings, after the execution of Nundcomar, if he had 
intended to make even a decent and commonly sensible use of 
it, would naturally have said, this man is justly taken away, 
who has accused me of these crimes ; but as there are other 
witnesses, as there are other means of a further inquiry, as the 
man is gone, of whose perjuries I might have reason to be 
afraid, let us now go into the inquiry. I think he did very ill 
not to go into the inquiry, when the man was alive ; but be it so, 
that he was afraid of him, and waited till he was removed, 
why not afterwards go into such an inquiry ? Why not go 
into an inquiry of all the other peculations and charges upon 
him, which were innumerable, one of which I have just men- 
tioned in particular, the charge of Munny Begum — of having 
received from her, or her adopted son, a bribe of 40,000/. ? 

Is it fit for a governor to say, — will Mr. Hastings say before 
this august assembly, I may be accused in a court of justice, I 
am upon my defence, let all charges remain against me, I will 
not give you an account? Is it fit, that a governor should sit 
with recorded bribery upon him at the head of a public board, 
and the government of a great kingdom, w^hen it is in his 
power by inquiry to do it away ? No — the chastity of char- 
acter of a man in that situation ought to be as dear to him as 
his innocence. Nay, more depended upon it. His innocence 
regarded himself, his character regarded the public justice, 
regarded his authority, and the respect due to the English in 
that country. I charge it upon him, that not only did he sup- 
press the inquiry to the best of his power (and it shall be proved) 
but he did not in any one instance endeavor to clear off* that 
imputation and reproach from the English government. He 
went further, he never denied hardly any of those charges at 
the time. They are so numerous, that I cannot be positive ; 
some of them he might meet with some sort of denial, but the 
most part he did not. 

The first thing a man under such an accusation owes to the 



292 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

world is to deny the charge ; next to put it to the proof ; and 
lastly to let inquiry freely go on. He did not permit this, but 
stopped it all in his power. I am to mention some exceptions 
perhaps hereafter, which will tend to fortify the principle tenfold. 

He promised indeed the court of directors (to whom he 
never denied the facts) a full and liberal explanation of these trans- 
actions ; which full and liberal explanation he never gave. Many 
years passed; even parliament took notice of it; and he never 
gave them a liberal explanation, or any explanation at all, of 
them. A man may say, I am threatened with a suit in a court, 
and it may be very disadvantageous to me, if I disclose my 
defence. That is a proper answer for a man in common life, 
who has no particular character to sustain; but is that a 
proper answer for a governor accused of bribery? that accu- 
sation transmitted to his masters, and his masters giving credit 
to it ? Good God ! is that a state, in which a man is to say, I 
am upon the defensive ? I am on my guard ? I will give you 
no satisfaction ? I have promised it, but I have already de- 
ferred it for seven or eight years ? Is not this tantamount to a 
denial ? 

Mr. Hastings, with this great body of bribery against him, 
w^as providentially freed from Nundcomar, one of his accusers ; 
and as good events do not come alone (I think there is some 
such proverb) it did so happen that all the rest, or a great 
many of them, ran away. But, however, the recorded evi- 
dence of the former charges continued; no new evidence 
came in ; and Mr. Hastings enjoyed that happy repose, which 
branded peculation, fixed and eternized upon the records of 
the company, must leave upon a mind conscious of its own 
integrity. 

My lords, I wall venture to say, there is no man but owes 
something to his character. It is the grace, undoubtedly, of a 
virtuous firm mind often to despise common vulgar calumny; 
but if ever there is an occasion, in w^hich it does become such 
a mind to disprove it, it is the case of being charged in high 
office with pecuniary malversation, pecuniary corruption. 
There is no case, in which it becomes an honest man — much 
less a great man — to leave upon record specific charges against 
him of corruption in his government, without taking any one 
step whatever to refute them. 

Though Mr. Hastings took no step to refute the charges, he 
took many steps to punish the authors of them; and those 
miserable people, who had the folly to make complaints against 
Mr. Hastings, to make them under the authority of an act of 
parliament, under every sanction of public faith, yet in conse- 
quence of those charges every person concerned in them has 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 293 

been, as your lordships will see, since his restoration to power, 
absolutely undone ; brought from the highest situation to the 
lowest misery ; so that they may have good reason to repent 
they ever trusted an Enghsh council, that they ever trusted a 
court of directors, that they ever trusted an English act of par- 
liament, that they ever dared to make their complaints. 

And here I charge upon Mr. Hastings, that by never taking 
a single step to defeat, or detect the falsehood of, any of those 
charges against him, and by punishing the authors of them, he 
has been guilty of such a subversion of all the principles of 
British governaient, as will deserve, and will I dare say meet, 
your lordships' most severe animadversion. 

In the course of this inquiry we find a sort of pause in his 
peculations, a sort of gap in the history, as if pages were torn 
out. No longer we meet with the same activity in taking 
money, that was before found ; not even a trace of compliment- 
ary presents is to be found in the records during the time, whilst 
General Clavering, Colonel Monson, and Mr. Francis, formed 
the majority of the council. There seems to have been a kind 
of truce with that sort of conduct for a while, and Mr. Hast- 
ings rested upon his arms. However, the very moment Mr. 
Hastings returned to power, peculation began again just at the 
same instant ; the moment we find him free from the compul- 
sion and terror of a majority of persons otherwise disposed 
than himself, we find him at his peculation again. 

My lords, at this time very serious inquiries had begun in the 
House of Commons concerning peculation. They did not go 
directly to Bengal, but they began upon the coast of Coroman- 
del, and with the principal governors there. There was, 
however, an universal opinion (and justly founded) that these 
inquiries would go to far greater lengths. Mr. Hastings was 
resolved then to change the whole course and order of his pro- 
ceeding. Nothing could persuade him upon any account to lay 
aside his system of bribery ; that he was resolved to persevere 
in. The point was now to reconcile it with his safety. The 
first thing he did was to attempt to conceal it, and accord- 
ingly we find him depositing very great sums of money in the 
public treasury through the means of the two persons I have 
already mentioned, namely, the deputy-treasurer and the ac- 
comptant, paying them in and taking bonds for them as money 
of his own, and bearing legal interest. 

This was his method of endeavoring to conceal some at 
least of his bribes (for I would not suggest, nor have your lord- 
ships to think, that I believe, that these were his only bribes ; 
for there is reason to think there was an infinite number be- 
sides ;) but it did so happen, that they were those bribes, which 

25* 



294 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

he thought might be discovered, some of which he knew were 
discovered, and all of which he knew might become the subject 
of a parhamentary inquiry. 

Mr. Hastings said, he might have concealed them for ever. 
Every one knows the facility of concealing corrupt transac- 
tions everywhere, in India particularly. But this is by himself 
proved not to be universally true, at least not to be true in his 
own opinion. For he tells you in his letter from Cheltenham, 
that he would have concealed the nabob's 100,000/. but that the 
magnitude rendered it easy of discovery. He, therefore, avows 
an intention of concealment. 

But it happens here very singularly, that this sum, which his 
fears of discovery by others obliged him to discover himself, 
happens to be one of those, of which no trace whatsoever ap- 
pears, except merely from the operation of his own apprehen- 
sions. There is no collateral testimony; Middleton knew 
nothing of it; Anderson knew nothing of it. It was not 
directly communicated to the faithful Larkins, or the trusty 
Crofts — which proves indeed the facility of concealment. The 
fact is, you find the apphcation always upon the discovery. 
But concealment or discovery is a thing of accident. 

The bribes, which I have hitherto brought before your lord- - 
ships, belong to the first period of his bribery, before he thought 
of the doctrine, on which he has since defended it. There are 
many other bribes, which we charge him with having received 
during this first period, before an improving conversation and 
close virtuous connexion with great lawyers had taught him 
how to practise bribes in such a manner as to defy detection, and 
instead of punishment to plead merit. I am not bound to find 
order and consistency in guilt ; it is the reign of disorder. The 
order of the proceeding, as far as I am able to trace such a 
scene of prevarication, direct fraud, falsehood, and falsification 
of the public accounts, was this. — From bribes he knew he 
could never abstain; and his then precarious situation made 
him the more rapacious. He knew, that a few of his former 
bribes had been discovered, declared, recorded ; that for the 
moment indeed he was secure, because all informers had been 
punished, and all concealers rewarded. He expected hourly a 
total change in the council ; and that men like Clavering and 
Monson might be again joined to Francis; that some great 
avenger should arise from their ashes — " Exoriare aliquis nostris 
ex ossihus ultor" — and that a more severe investigation, and an 
infinitely more full display would be made of his robbery, than 
hitherto had been done. He therefore began in the agony of 
his guilt to cast about for some device, by which he might con- 
tinue his offence, if possible, with impunity, — and possibly make 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 295 

a merit of it. He therefore first carefully perused the act of 
parliament, forbidding bribery, and his old covenant engaging 
him not to receive presents. And here he was more successful 
than upon former occasions. If ever an act was studiously and' 
carefully framed to prevent bribery, it is that law of the 13th 
of the king, which he well observes admits no latitudes of con- 
struction, no subterfuge, no escape, no evasion. Yet has he 
found a defence of his crimes even in the very provisions, 
which were made for their prevention and their punishment. 
Besides the penalty, which belongs to every informer, the East 
India company was invested with a fiction of property in all 
such bribes, in order to drag them with more facility out of the 
corrupt hands, which held them. The covenant with an ex- 
ception of 100 pounds, and the act of parliament without any 
exception, declared, that the governor-general and council 
should receive no presents /or their own use. He therefore con- 
cluded that the system of bribery and extortion might be clan- 
destinely and safely carried on, provided the party taking the 
bribes had an inward intention and mental reservation, that 
they should be privately applied to the company's service, in 
any way the briber should think fit ; and that on many occa- 
sions this would prove the best method of supply for the 
exigencies of their service. 

He accordingly formed, or pretended to form, a private bribe 
exchequer, collateral w^ith, and independent of, the company's 
public exchequer ; though in some cases administered by those, 
whom for his purposes he had placed in the regular official 
department. It is no wonder, that he has taken to himself an 
extraordinary degree of merit. For surely such an invention 
of finance I believe never was heard of, — an exchequer, wherein 
extortion was the assessor, fraud the cashier, confusion the 
accomptant, concealment the reporter, and obhvion the remem- 
brancer : in short, such as I believe no man, but one driven by 
guilt into frenzy, could ever have dreamed of. 

He treats the official and regular directors with just con- 
tempt, as a parcel of mean, mechanical book-keepers. He is 
an eccentric book-keeper, a Pindaric accomptant. I have heard 
of " the poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling." Here was a reve- 
nue, exacted from whom he pleased, at what times he pleased, 
in what proportions he pleased, through what persons he pleased, 
by what means he pleased, to be accounted for, or not, at his 
discretion, and to be applied to what service he thought proper. 
I do believe your lordships stand astonished at this scheme ; 
and indeed I should be very loth to venture to state such a 
scheme at all, however I might have credited it myself, to any 
sober ears, if, in his defence before the House of Commons and 



296 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

before the lords, he had not directly admitted the fact of taking 
the bribes or forbidden presents, and had not in those defences, 
and much more fully in his correspondence with the directors, 
admitted the fact, and justified it upon these very principles. 

As this is a thing so unheard of and unexampled in the world, 
I shall first endeavor to account, as well as I can, for his mo- 
tives to it, which your lordships will receive or reject, just as 
you shall find them tally with the evidence before you. I say, 
his motives to it ; because I contend, that pubhc valid reasons 
for it he could have none : and the idea of making the corrup- 
tion of the governor-general a resource to the company never 
did or could for a moment enter into his thoughts. — I shall then 
take notice of the judicial constructions, upon which he justifies 
his acting in this extraordinary manner. — And lastly, show you 
the concealments, prevarications, and falsehoods, with which 
he endeavors to cover it. Because wherever you find a con- 
cealment you make a discovery. Accounts of money received 
and paid ought to be regular and official. 

He wrote over to the court of directors, that there were 
certain sums of money he had received, and which were not 
his own, but that he had received them for their use. By this 
time, his intercourse with gentlemen of the law became more 
considerable than it had been before. When first attacked for 
presents, he never denied the receipt of them, or pretended to 
say they were for public purposes ; but upon looking more into 
the covenants, and probably with better legal advice, he found, 
that no money could be legally received for his own use ; but 
as these bribes were directly given and received, as for his own 
use, yet (says he) there was an inward destination of them in 
my own mind to your benefit, and to your benefit have I ap- 
plied them. 

Now here is a new system of bribery, contrary to law, very 
ingenious in the contrivance, but, I believe, as unlikely to pro- 
duce its intended effect upon the mind of man, as any pretence, 
that was ever used. Here Mr. Hastings changes his ground. 
Before, he was accused as a peculator ; he did not deny the 
fact ; he did not refund the money ; he fought it off, he stood 
upon the defensive, and used all the means in his power to pre- 
vent the inquiry. That was the first era of his corruption, a 
bold, ferocious, plain, downright use of power. In the second, 
he is grown a Httle more careful and guarded, the effect of 
subtility. He appears no longer as a defendant, he holds him- 
self up with a firm, dignified, and erect countenance, and says, 
I am not here any longer as a delinquent, a receiver of bribes, to 
be punished for what I have done wrong, or at least to suffer 
in my character for it. No, I am a great inventive genius. 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 297 

who have gone out of all the ordinary roads of finance, have 
made great discoveries in the unknown regions of that science, 
and have for the first time established the corruption of the 
supreme magistrate as a principle of resource for government. 

There are crimes, undoubtedly, of great magnitude, naturally 
fitted to create horror, and that loudly call for punishment, 
that have yet no idea of turpitude annexed to them ; but unclean 
hands, bribery, venality and peculation are offences of turpi- 
tude, such as, in a governor, at once debase the person, and 
degrade* the government itself, making it not only horrible, but 
vile and contemptible in the eyes of all mankind. In this hu- 
miliation and abjectness of guilt, he comes here not as a 
criminal on his defence, but as a vast fertile genius, who has 
made astonishing discoveries in the art of government ; — "jDz- 
cam insigne, recens, alio indicium ore^^ — who by his flaming zeal 
and the prolific ardor and energy of his mind has boldly dashed 
out of the common path, and served his country by new and 
untrodden ways ; and now he generously communicates for the 
benefit of all future governors, and all future governments, the 
grand arcanum of his long and toilsome researches. He is the 
first,' but if we do not take good care, he will not be the last, 
that has established the corruption of the supreme magistrate 
among the settled resources of the state ; and he leaves this 
principle as a bountiful donation, as the richest deposit, that 
ever was made in the treasury of Bengal. He claims glory 
and renown from that, by which qyqty other person: since the 
beginning of time has been dishonored and disgraced. It has 
been said of an ambassador, that he is a person employed to 
tell lies for the advantage of the court, that sends him. His is 
patriotic bribery, and public-spirited corruption. He is a pecu- 
lator for the good of his country. It has been said, that pri- 
vate vices are public benefits. He goes the full length of that 
position, and turns his private peculacion into a public good. 
This is what you are to thank him for. You are to consider 
him as a great inventor upon this occasion. Mr. Hastings im- 
proves on this principle. He is a robber in gross, and a thief 
in detail; he steals, he filches, he plunders, he oppresses, he 
extorts — all for the good of the dear East India company,— all 
for the advantage of his honored masters the proprietors — all 
in gratitude to the dear perfidious court of directors, who have 
been in a practice to heap *' insults on his person, slanders on 
his character, and indignities on his station ; w^ho never had 
the confidence in him, that they had in the meanest of his 
predecessors." 

If you sanction this practice, if, after all you have exacted 
from the people by your taxes and public imposts, you are to 

2N 



298 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

let loose your servants upon them to extort by bribery and 
peculation what they can from them, for the purpose of apply- 
ing it to the public service only whenever they please, — this 
shocking consequence will follow from it. If your governor is 
discovered in taking a bribe, he will say. What is that to you? 
mind your business, I intend it for the public service. The 
man, who dares to accuse him, loses the favor of the governor- 
general, and the India company. They will say, the governor 
has been doing a meritorious action, extorting bribes for our 
benefit, and you have the impudence to think of prosecuting 
him. , So that the moment the bribe is detected, it is instantly 
turned into a merit ; and we shall prove, that this is the case 
with Mr. Hastings, whenever a bribe has been discovered. 

I am now to inform your lordships, that, when he made these 
great discoveries to the court of directors, he never tells them 
who gave him the money; upon what occasion he received it; 
by what hands; or to what purposes he applied it. 

When he can himself give no account of his motives, and 
even declares, that he c.annot assign any cause, I am author- 
ized and required to find motives for him — corrupt motives for 
a corrupt act. There is no one capital act of his administra- 
tion, that did not strongly imply corruption. When a man is 
known to be free from all imputation of taking money, and it 
becomes an estabhshed part of his character, the errors, or 
even crimes, of his administration ought to be, and are in gen- 
eral, traced to other sources. You know it is a maxim. But 
once convict a man of bribery in any instance, and once by 
direct evidence, and you are furnished with a rule of irresist- 
ible presumption, that every other irregular act, by which un- 
lawful gain may arise, is done upon the same corrupt motive. 
Semel malus prcesumiiur semper malus. As, for good acts, can- 
dor, charity, justice, oblige me not to assign evil motives, un- 
less they serve some scandalous purpose, or terminate in some 
manifest evil end, so justice, reason and common sense compel 
me to suppose, that wicked acts have been done upon motives 
correspondent to their nature. Otherwise I reverse all the 
principles of judgment, which can guide the human mind, and 
accept even the symptoms, the marks and criteria, of guilt, as 
presumptions of innocence. One that confounds good and evil, 
is an enemy to the good ! • 

His conduct upon these occasions may be thought irrational. 
But, thank God, guilt was never a rational thing, it distorts all 
the faculties of the mind, it perverts them, it leaves a man no 
longer in the free use of his reason ; it puts him into confusion. 
He has recourse to such miserable and absurd expedients for 
covering his guilt, as all those, who are used to sit in the seat 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 299 

of judgment, know have been the cause of detection of half the 
villanies in the world. To argue, that these could not be his 
reasons, because they were not w^ise, sound and substantial, 
would be to suppose what is not true, that bad men were al- 
ways discreet and able. But I can very well from the circum- 
stances discover motives, which may affect a giddy, superficial, 
shattered, guilty, anxious, restless mind, full of the weak re- 
sources of fraud, craft and intrigue, that might induce him to 
make these discoveries, and to make them in the manner he 
has done. Not rational, and well-fitted for their purposes, I 
am very ready to admit. For God forbid, that guilt should 
ever leave a man the free undisturbed use of his faculties. For 
as guilt never rose from a true use of our rational faculties, so 
it is very frequently subversive of them. God forbid, that pru- 
dence, the first of all the virtues, as well as the supreme direc- 
tor of them all, should ever be employed in the service of any 
of the vices. — No, it takes the lead, and is* never found where 
justice does not accompany it; and, if ever it is attempted to 
bring it into the service of the vices, it immediately subverts 
their cause. It tends to their discovery, and, I hope and trust, 
finally to their utter ruin and destruction. 

. In the first place I am to remark to your lordships, that the 
accounts he has given of one of these sums of money are to- 
tally false and contradictory. Now there is not a stronger 
presumption, nor can one want more reason, to judge a trans-, 
action fraudulent, than that the accounts given of it are con- 
tradictory ; and he has given three accounts utterly irrecon- 
cilable with each other. He is asked. How came you to take 
bonds for this money, if it was not your own ? How came you 
to vitiate and corrupt the state of the company's records, and 
to state yourself a lender to the company, when in reality you 
were their debtor ? His answer was, I really cannot tell ; I have 
forgot my reasons; the distance of time is so great (namely, a 
time of about two years or not so long) I cannot give an ac- 
count of the matter ; perhaps I had this motive, perhaps I had 
another ; (but what is the most curious,) perhaps I had none at 
all, which I can now recollect. You shall hear the account, 
which Mr. Hastings himself gives, his own fraudulent repre- 
sentation of these corrupt transactions. " For my motives for 
withholding the several receipts from the knowledge of the 
council, or of the court of directors, antl for taking bonds for 
part of these sums, and paying others into the treasury as de- 
posits on my own account, I have generally accounted in my 
letter to the honorable the court of directors of the 22d of 
May, 1782, namely, that I either chose to conceal the first 
receipts from public curiosity by receiving bonds for the 



300 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

amount, or possibly acted without any studied design, which 
my memory, at that distance of time, could verify ; and that I 
did not think it worth my care to observe the same means with 
the rest. It will not be expected, that I should be able to give 
a more correct explanation of my intentions after a lapse of 
three years, having declared at the time, that many particulars 
had escaped my remembrance; neither shall I attempt to add 
more than the clearer affirmation of the facts implied in that 
report of them, and such inferences, as necessarily, or with a 
strong probability, follow them." 

My lords,_you see, as to any direct explanation, that he fairly 
gives it up : he has used artifice and stratagem, which he knows 
will not do ; and at last attempts to cover the treachery of his 
conduct by the treachery of his memory. Frequent applica- 
tions were made to Mr. Hastings upon this article from the 
company — gentle hints, gemitus columbcE — rather little amorous 
complaints, that he was not more open and communicative ; but 
all these gentle insinuations were never able to draw from him 
any further account till he came to England. When he came 
here, he left not only his memory, but all his notes and refer- 
ences, behind in India. When in India, the company could get 
no account of them, because he himself was not in England; 
and when he was in England, they could get no account, be- 
cause his papers were in India. He then sends over to Mr. 
Larkins to give that account of his affairs, which he was 
not able to give himself Observe, here is a man taking money 
privately, corruptly, and which was to be sanctified by the future 
application of it, taking false securities to cover it; and who, 
when called upon to tell whom he got the money from, for what 
ends, and on what occasion, neither will tell in India, nor can 
tell in England, but sends for such an account as he has thought 
proper to furnish. 

I am now to bring before you an account of what I think 
much the most serious part of the effects of his system of 
bribery, corruption and peculation. My lords, I am to state to 
you the astonishing and almost incredible means he made use 
of to lay all the country under contribution, to bring the whole 
into such dejection as should put his bribes out of the way of 
discovery. Such another example of boldness and contrivance 
I believe the world cannot furnish. 

I have already shown amongst the mass of his coi:ruptions, 
that he let the whole of the lands to farm to the banyans. Next, 
that he sold the whole Mahomedan government of that country 
to a woman. This was bold enough, one should think; but 
without entering into the circumstances of the revenue change 
in 1772, 1 am to tell your lordships, that he had appointed six pro- 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 301 

vincial councils, each consisting of many members, who had 
the ordinary administration of civil justice in that country, and 
the whole business of the collection of the revenues. 

These provincial councils accounted to the governor-general 
and council, who, in the revenue department, had the whole 
management, control, and regulation of the revenue. Mr. 
Hastings did, in several papers to the court of directors, de- 
clare, that the establishment of these provincial councils, which 
at first he stated only as experimental, had proved useful in the 
experiment. And on that use, and upon that experiment, he 
had sent even the plan of an act of parliament to have it con- 
firmed with the last and most sacred authority of this country. 
The court of directors desired, that, if he thought any other 
method more proper, he would send it to them for their appro- 
bation. 

Thus the whole face of the British government, the whole of 
its order and constitution, remained from 1772 to 1781. — He 
had got rid some time before this period, by death, of General 
Clavering; by death, of Colonel Monson ; and by vexation and 
persecution, and his consequent derehction of authority, he had 
shaken off Mr. Francis. The whole council consisting only 
of himself and Mr. Wheler, he, having the casting vote, was 
in effect the whole council; and if ever there was a time when 
principle, decency, and decorum rendered it improper for him 
to do any extraordinary acts without the sanction of the court 
of directors, that was the time. Mr. Wheler was taken off", 
despair perhaps rendering the man, who had been in opposition 
futilely before, comphable. The man is dead. He certainly 
did not oppose him ; if he had, it would have been in vain. 
But those very circumstances, which rendered it atrocious in Mr. 
Hastings to make any change, induced him to make this.— He 
thought that a moment's time was not to be lost, that other col-. 
leagues might come, when he might be overpowered by a ma- 
jority again, and not able to pursue his corrupt plans. There- 
fore he was resolved— your lordships will remark the whole of 
this most daring and systematic plan of bribery and peculation, 
— he resolved to put it out of the power of his council in future 
to check or control him in any of his evil practices. 

The first thing he did was to form an ostensible council at 
Calcutta, for the management of the revenues, which was not 
effectually bound, except it thought fit, to make any reference 
to the supreme council. He delegated to them — that is, to four 
covenanted servants — those functions, which, by act of parlia- 
ment and the company's orders, were to be exercised by the 
council-general ; he delegated to four gentlemen, creatures of 
his own, his own powers, but he laid them out to good interest. 

26 



302 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

It appears odd, that one of the first acts of a governor-general, 
so jealous of his power as he is known to be, as soon as he had 
all the power in his own hands, should be to put all the revenues 
out of his own control. This, upon the first view, is an extra- 
ordinary proceeding. His next step was, without apprizing the 
court of directors of his intention, or without having given an 
idea of any such intention to his colleagues while alive, either 
those who died in India, or those who afterwards returned to 
Europe, in one day, in a moment, to annihilate the whole au- 
thority of the provincial councils, and delegate the whole power 
to these four gentlemen. These four gentlemen had for their 
secretary an agent given them by Mr. Hastings ; a name that 
you will often hear of — a name, at the sound of which all India 
turns pale — the most wicked — the most atrocious — the boldest 
— the most dexterous villain, that ever the rank servitude of 
that country has produced. My lords, I am speaking with the 
most assured freedom, because there never was a friend of Mr. 
Hastings, there never was a foe of Mr. Hastings, there never 
was any human person, that ever differed on this occasion, or 
expressed any other idea of Gunga Govin Sing, the friend of 
Mr. Hastings, whom he intrusted with this important post. But 
you shall hear, from the account given by themselves, what the 
council thought of their functions, of their efficiency for the 
. charge, and io whose hands that efficiency really was. I beg, 
hope, and trust, that your lordships will learn from the persons 
themselves, who were appointed to execute the office, their 
opinion of the real execution of it, in order that you may judge 
of the plan, for which he destroyed the whole English adminis- 
tration in India. *' The committee must have a dewan, or ex- 
ecutive officer, call him by what name you please. This man 
in fact has all the revenue, paid at the presidency, at his dispo- 
sal, and can, if he has any abihties, bring all the renters under 
contribution. It is little advantage to restrain the committee 
themselves from bribery or corruption, when their executive 
officer has the power of practising both Hndetected. 

*' To display the arts employed by a native on such occasions 
would fill a volume. He discovers the secret resources of the 
zemindars and renters, their enemies and competitors ; and by 
the engines of hope and fear, raised upon these foundations, 
he can w^ork them to his purpose. The committee, with the 
best intentions, best abilities, and steadiest application, must 
after all be a tool in the hands of their dewan." 

Your lordships see what the opinion of the council was of 
their own constitution. You see for what it was made. You 
see for what purpose the great revenue trust was taken from 
the council-general, from the supreme government. You see for 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 303 

what purposes the executive power was destroyed. You have 
it from one of the gentlemen of this commission, at first four in 
number, and afterwards five, who was the most active eflicient 
member of it. You see it was made for the purpose of being 
a tool in the hands of Gunga Govin Sing ; that integrity, ability, 
arid vigilance, could avail nothing; that the whole country 
might be laid under contribution by this man, and that he could 
thus practise bribery with impunity. Thus, your lordships see, 
the delegation of all the authority of the country, above and 
below, is given by Mr. Hastings to this Gunga Govin Sing. 
The screen, the veil spread before this transaction, is torn open 
by the very people themselves, who are the tools in it. They 
confess they can do nothing ; they know they are instruments 
in the hands of Gunga Govin Sing ; and Mr. Hastings uses his 
name and authority to make them such in the hands of the 
basest, the wickedest, the corruptest, the most audacious and 
atrocious villain ever heard of. It is to him all the Enghsh 
authority is sacrificed, and four gentlemen are appointed to be 
his tools and instruments. — Tools and instruments for what? 
They themselves state, that, if he has the inclination, he has the 
power and abihty to lay the whole country under contribution, 
that he enters into the most minute secrets of every individual 
in it, gets into the bottom of their family affairs, and has a 
power totally to subvert and destroy them; and we shall show 
upon that head, that he well fulfilled the purposes, for which he 
was appointed. Did Mr. Hastings pretend to say, that he 
destroyed the provincial councils for their corruptness or insuf- 
ficiency, when he dissolved them? No — he says he has no 
objection to their competency, no charge to make against their 
conduct, but that he has destroyed them for his new arrange- 
ment. And what is his new arrangement ? Gunga Govin Sing. 
Forty English gentlemen were removed from their offices by 
that change. Mr. Hastings did it, however, very economically ; 
for all these gentlemen were instantly put upon pensions, and 
consequently burdened the establishment with a new charge. 
Well, but the new council was formed and constituted upon a 
very economical principle also. These five gentlemen, you will 
have it in proof, with the necessary expenses of their office, 
were a charge of 62,000/. a year upon the estabhshment. But 
for great, eminent, capital services, 62,000/. though a much 
larger sum than what was thought fit to be allowed for the 
members of the supreme council itself, may be admitted. I will 
pass it. It shall be granted to Mr. Hastings, that these pen- 
sions, though they created a new burden on the establishment, 
were all well disposed, provided the council did their duty. But 
you have heard what they say themselves — they are not there 



304 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

put to do any duty, they can do no duty ; their abiHties, their 
integrity availed them nothing, they are tools in the hands of ' 
Gunga Govin Sing. Mr. Hastings then has loaded the revenue 
with 62,000/. a year to make Gunga Govin Sing master of the 
kingdom of Bengal, Bahar and Orissa. What must the thing to 
be moved be, when the machinery, when the necessary tools 
for Gunga Govin Sing, have cost 62,000/. a year to the com- 
pany ? There it is — it is not my representation — not the repre- 
sentation of observant strangers, of good and decent people, 
that understand the nature of that service, but the opinion of 
the tools themselves. 

Now, did Mr. Hastings employ Gunga Govin Sing without 
a knowledge of his character ? His character was known to 
Mr. Hastings; it was recorded long before, when he was turn- 
ed out of another office. During my long residence, says he, 
in this country, this is the first time I heard of the character of 
Gunga Govin Sing being infamous. No information I have re- 
ceived, though I have heard many people speak ill of him, ever 
pointed to any particular act of infamy committed by Gunga 
Govin Sing. I have no intimate knowledge of Gunga Govin 
Sing. What I understand of his character has been from Eu- 
ropeans as well as natives. After — " He had many enemies 
at the time he was proposed to be employed in the company's 
service, and not one advocate among the natives who had im- 
mediate access to myself. I think, therefore, if his character 
had been such as has been described, the knowledge of it could 
hardly have failed to have been ascertained to me by the spe- 
cific facts. I have heard him loaded, as I have many others, 
with general reproaches, but have never heard any one express 
a doubt of his abilities.^'' Now, if anything in the world should 
induce you to put the whole trust of the revenues of Bengal, 
both above and below, into the hands of a single man, and to 
delegate to him the whole jurisdiction of the country, it must 
be, that he either was, or at least was reputed to be, a man of 
integrity. Mr. Hastings does not pretend, that he is reputed 
to be a man of integrity. He knew that he was not able to 
contradict the charge brought against him ; and that he had 
been turned out of office by his colleagues, for reasons assign- 
ed upon record, and approved by the directors, for malversa- 
tion in office. He had, indeed, crept again into the Calcutta 
committee ; and they were upon the point of turning him out 
for malversation, when Mr. Hastings saved them the trouble by 
turning out the whole committee, consisting of a president and 
five members. So that in all times, in all characters, in all 
places, he stood as a man of a bad character and evil repute, 
though supposed to be a man of great abilities. 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 305 

My lords, permit me for one moment to drop my represent- 
ative character here, and to speak to your lordships only as a 
man of some experience in the world, and conversant with the 
affairs of men, and with the characters of men. 

I do then declare my conviction, and wish it may stand re- 
corded to posterity, that there never was a had man, that had 
ability for good service. It is not in the nature of such men ; 
their minds are so distorted to selfish purposes, to knavish, ar- 
tificial, and crafty means of accomplishing those selfish ends, 
that, if put to any good service, they are poor, dull, helpless. 
Their natural faculties never have that direction, — they are 
paralytic on that side ; — the muscles, if I may use the expres- 
sion, that ought to move it, are all dead. They know nothing, 
but how to pursue selfish ends by wicked and indirect means. 
No man ever knowingly employed a bad man on account of 
his abilities, but for evil ends. Mr. Hastings knew this man to 
be bad ; all the world knew him to be bad ; and how did he 
employ him ? in such a manner as that he might be controlled 
by others ? A great deal might be said for him, if this had been 
the case. There might be circumstances, in which such a man 
[ might be used in a subordinate capacity. But who ever thought 
of putting such a man virtually in possession of the whole au- 
1 thority both of the committee and the council-general, and of 

the revenues of the whole country? 
1 I will do Mr. Hastings the justice to say, that if he had 
1 known there was another man more accomplished in all ini- 
J quity than Gunga Govin Sing, he would not have given him 
the first place in his confidence. But there is another next to 
I him in the country, whom you are to hear of by and by, called 
\ Debi Sing. This person in the universal opinion of all Bengal 
1 is ranked next to Gunga Govin Sing ; and, what is very curi- 
ous, they have been recorded by Mr. Hastings as rivals in the 
same virtues. 

Arcades ambo, 
Et cantare pares, et respondere parati. 

But Mr. Hastings has the happiest modes in the world ; these 
rivals were reconciled on this occasion, and Gunga Govin Sing 
appoints Debi Sing, superseding all the other officers for no 
reason whatever upon record. And because Hke champions 
they ought to go in pairs, there is an English gentleman, one 
Mr. Goodlad, whom you will hear of presently, appointed 
along with him. Absolute strangers to the rajah's family, the 
first act they do is — to cut off 1,000 out of 1,600 a month from 
his allowance. They state (though there was a great number 
of dependants to maintain) that 600 would be enough to 
maintain him. There appears in the account of these proceed- 

2 O 26* 



306 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

ings to be such a flutter about the care of the rajah, and the 
management of his household ; in short, that there never was 
such a tender guardianship as, always with the knowledge of 
Mr. Hastings, is exercised over this poor rajah, who had just 
given, if he did give, 40,000/. for his own inheritance, if it was 
his due — for the inheritance of others, if it was not his due. 
One would think he was entitled to some mercy ; but probably, 
because the money could not otherwise be suppHed, his estab- 
lishment was cut down by Debi Sing and Mr. Goodlad a 
thousand a month, which is just twelve thousand a year. 

When Mr. Hastings had appointed those persons to the guar- 
dianship, who had an interest in the management of the rajah's 
education and fortune, one should have thought, before they 
were turned out, he would at least have examined whether 
such a step was proper or not. No, they were turned out, 
without any such examination ; and when I come to inquire 
into the proceedings of Gunga Govin Sing's committee, I do 
not find, that the new guardians have brought to account one 
single shilling they received, appointed as they were by that 
council newly made to superintend all the affairs of the rajah. 

There is not one word to be found of an account : Debi Sing's 
honor, fidelity and disinterestedness, and that of Mr. Goodlad, 
is sufficient ; and that is the way, in which the management 
and superintendence of one of the greatest houses in that 
country is given to the guardianship of strangers. And how is 
it managed ? we find Debi Sing in possession of the rajah's 
family, in possession of his affairs, in the management of his 
whole zemidary ; and in the course of the next year he is to 
give him in farm the whole of the revenues of these three 
provinces. Now whether the peshcush was received for the 
nomination of the rajah, as a bribe in judgment, or whether 
Mr. Hastings got it from Debi Sing, as a bribe in office, for 
appointing him to the guardianship of a family that did not 
belong to him, and for the dominion of three great, and once 
wealthy, provinces — which is best or worst I shall not pretend 
to determine. You find the rajah in his possession, you find 
his education, his household in his possession. The public 
revenues are in his possession ; they are given over to him. 

If we look at the records, the letting of these provinces ap- 
pears to have been carried on by the new committee of revenue, 
as the course and order of business required it should. But by 
the investigation into Mr. Hastings's money transactions, the 
insufficiency and fallacy of these records is manifest beyond a 
doubt. From this investigation it is discovered, that it was in 
reality a bargain secretly struck between the governor-general 
and Debi Sing ; and that the committee were only employed in 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 307 

the mere official forms. From the time, that Mr. Hastings 
new modelled, the revenue system, nothing is seen in its true 
shape. We now know, in spite of the fallacy of these records, 
who the true grantor was ; it will not be amiss to go a little 
further in supplying their defects, and to inquire a little con- 
cerning the grantee. This makes it necessary for me to in- 
form your lordships who Debi Sing is. 

[JWr. Burke read the committee^ s recommendation of Debi Sing to 
the governor-general and council : but the copy of the paper 
alluded to is wanting.'] 



Here is a choice, here is Debi Sing presented for his know- 
ledge in business, his trust and fidelity ; and that he is a person, 
against whom no objection can be made, This is presented to 
Mr. Hastings, by him recorded in the council books, and by 
him transmitted to the court of directors. Mr. Hastings has 
since recorded, that he knew this Debi Sing, (though he here 
pubHely authorizes the nomination of him to all that great body 
of trusts,) that he knew him to be a man completely capable of 
the mos't atrocious iniquities, that were ever charged upon man. 
Debi Sing is appointed to all those great trusts through the 
means of Gunga Govin Sing, from whom he (Mr. Hastings) 
had received 30,000/. as a part of a bribe. 

Now, though it is a large field, though it is a thing, that, I 
must confess, I feel a reluctance almost in venturing to under- 
take, exhausted as I am, yet such is the magnitude of the 
affair, such the evil consequences that followed from a system 
of bribery, such the horrible consequences of superseding all 
the persons in office in the country to give it into the hands of 
Debi Sing, that though it is the public opinion, and though no 
man, that has ever heard the name of Debi Sing, does not 
know, that he was only second to Gunga Govin Sing, yet it is 
not to my purpose, unless I prove, that Mr. Hastings knew his 
character at the very time he accepts him as a person against 
whom no exception could be made. 

It is necessary to inform your lordships who this Debi Sing 
was, to whom these great trusts were committed, and those 
great provinces given. 

It may be thought, and not unnaturally, that in this sort of 
corrupt and venal appointment to high trust and office, Mr. 
Hastings has no other consideration than the money he received. 
But whoever thinks so will be deceived. Mr. Hastings was 
very far from indifl^erent to the character of the persons he 



308 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

dealt with. On the contrary, he made a most careful selection ; 
he had a very scrupulous regard to the aptitude of the men foi 
the purposes for which he employed them ; and was much 
guided by his experience of their conduct in those offices, which 
had been sold to them upon former occasions. 

Except Gunga Govin Sing (whom, as justice required, Mr. 
Hastings distinguished by the highest marks of his confidence,) 
there was not a man in Bengal, perhaps not upon earth, a 
match for this Debi Sing. He was not an unknown subject ; 
not one rashly taken up as an experiment. He was a tried 
man ; and if there had been one more desperately and aban- 
donedly corrupt, more wildly and flagitiously oppressive, to be 
found unemployed in India, large as his offers were, Mr. Hast- 
ings would not have taken this money from Debi Sing. 

Debi Sing was one of those who, in the early stages of the 
EngUsh power in Bengal, attached himself to those natives, 
who then stood high in office. He courted Mahomed Reza 
Khan, a Mussulman of the highest rank, of the tribe of Koreish, 
whom I have already mentioned, then at the head of the 
revenue, and now at the head of the criminal justice of Bengal, 
with all the supple assiduity, of which those, who possess no 
valuable art or useful talent, are commonly complete masters. 
Possessing large funds acquired by his apprenticeship and 
novitiate in the lowest frauds, he was enabled to lend to this 
then powerful man, in the several emergencies of his variable 
fortune, very large sums of money. This great man had been 
brought down by Mr. Hastings, under the orders of the court 
of directors, upon a cruel charge, to Calcutta. He was accused 
of many crimes, and acquitted, 220,000/. in debt. That is to 
say, as soon as he was a great debtor, he ceased to be a great 
criminal. 

Debi Sing obtained by his services no slight influence over ^ 
Mahomed Reza Khan, a person of a character very different 
from his. 

From that connexion he was appointed to the farm of the 
revenue, and inclusively of the government of Purnea, a prov- 
ince of very great extent, and then in a state of no inconsider- 
able opulence. In this office he exerted his talents with so much 
vigor and industry, that in a very short time the province was 
half depopulated, and totally ruined. 

The farm, on the expiration of his lease, was taken by a set 
of adventurers in this kind of traffic from Calcutta. But when 
the new undertakers came to survey the object of their future 
operations, and future profits, they were so shocked at the 
hideous and squalid scenes of misery and desolation, that glared 
upon them in every quarter, that they instantly fled out of the 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 309 

country, and thought themselves but too happy to be permitted, 
on the payment of a penalty of twelve thousand pounds, to be 
released from their engagements. 

To give in a few words as clear an idea, as I am able to give, 
of the immense volume, which might be composed of the vexa- 
tions, violence, and rapine of that tyrannical administration, the 
territorial revenue of Purnea, which had been let to Debi Sing 
at the rate of 160,000/. sterling a year, was with difficulty 
leased for a yearly sum under 90,000/. and with all rigor of 
exaction produced in effect little more than 60,000/. falling 
greatly below one half of its original estimate. — So entirely did 
the administration of Debi Sing exhaust all the resources of the 
province ; so totally did his baleful influence blast the very hope 
and spring of all future revenue. 

The administration of Debi Sing was too notoriously destruc- 
tive not to cause a general clamor. It was impossible, that it 
should be passed over without animadversion. Accordingly, in 
the month of September 1772, Mr. Hastings, then at the head 
of the committee of circuit, removed him for maladministra- 
tion; and he has since pubHcly declared on record, that he 
knew him to be capable of all the most horrid and atrocious 
crimes, that can be imputed to man. 

This brand, how^ever, was only a mark for Mr. Hastings to 
find him out hereafter in the crowd ; to identify him for his 
own ; and to call him forth into action, when his virtues should 
be sufficiently matured for the services, in which he afterwards 
employed him through his instruments Mr. Anderson and Gunga 
Govin Sing. In the mean time he left Debi Sing to the direc- 
tion of his own good genius. 

Debi Sing was stigmatized in the company's records, his 
reputation was gone, but his funds w^ere safe. In the arrange- 
ment made by Mr. Hastings in the year 1773, by which 
provincial councils were formed, Debi Sing became deputy 
steward, or " secretary, (soon in effect and influence principal 
steward) to the provincial council of Moorshedabad, the seat 
of the old government, and the first province of the kingdom ; 
and to his charge were committed various extensive and popu- 
lous provinces, yielding an annual revenue of 120 lacs of 
rupees, or 1,500,000/. This division of provincial council in- 
cluded Rungpore, Edrackpore, and others, where he obtained 
such a knowledge of their resources, as subsequently to get 
possession of them. 

Debi Sing found this administration composed mostly of 
young men, dissipated and fond of pleasure, as is usual at that 
time of life ; but desirous of reconcihng those pleasures, which 
usually consume wealth, with the means of making a great and 



310 MR. BURKE^S SPEECH ON THE 

speedy fortune ; at once eager candidates for opulence, and 
perfect novices in all the roads that lead to it. Debi Sing 
commiserated their youth and inexperience, and took upon him 
to be their guide. 

There is a revenue in that country, raised by a tax more 
productive than laudable. It is an imposition on public prosti- 
tutes, a duty upon the societies of dancing girls ; those semina- 
ries, from which Mr. Hastings has selected an administrator of 
justice and governor of kingdoms. Debi Sing thought it 
expedient to farm this tax ; not only because he neglected no 
sort of gain, but because he regarded it as no contemptible 
means of povi^er and influence. Accordingly, in plain terms, 
he opened a legal brothel, out of vi^hich he carefully reserved 
(you may be sure) the very flower of his collection for the en- 
tertainment of his young superiors ; ladies recommended not 
only by personal merit, but, according to the eastern custom, 
by sweet and enticing names, which he had given them. For, 
if they were to be translated they would sound, — Riches of my 
Life; Wealth of my Soul; Treasure of Perfection; Diamond 
of Splendor ; Pearl of Price ; Ruby of Pure Blood ; and other 
metaphorical descriptions, that, calhng up dissonant passions 
to enhance the value of the general harmony, heightened the 
attractions of love with the allurements of avarice. A moving 
seraglio of these ladies always attended his progress, and were 
always brought to the splendid and multiplied entertainments, 
with which he regaled his council. In these festivities, whilst 
his guests were engaged with the seductions of beauty, the 
intoxications of the most deUcious wines of France, and the 
voluptuous vapor of perfumed India smoke, uniting the vivid 
satisfactions of Europe with the torpid blandishments of Asia, 
the great magician himself, chaste in the midst of dissoluteness, 
sober in the centre of debauch, vigilant in the lap of negligence 
and oblivion, attended with an eagle's eye the moment for 
thrusting in business, and at such times was able to carry with- 
out difficulty points of shameful enormity, which at other hours 
he would not so much as have dared to mention to his em- 
ployers, young men rather careless and inexperienced than 
intentionally corrupt. Not satisfied with being pander to their 
pleasures, he anticipated, and was purveyor to, their wants, and 
supplied them with a constant command of money ; and by 
these means he reigned with an uncontrolled dominion over the 
province and over its governors. 

For you are to understand, that in many things we are very 
much misinformed w^ith regard to the true seat of power in 
India. Whilst we were proudly calling India a British govern- 
ment, it was in substance a government of the lowest, basest, 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 311 

and most flagitious of the native rabble; to whom the far greater 
part of the English, who figured in employment and station, 
had from their earliest youth been slaves and instruments. 
Banyans had anticipated the period of their power in prema- 
ture advances of money; and have ever after obtained the 
entire dominion over their nomina masters. 

By these various ways and means, Debi Sing contrived to 
add job to job, employment to employment, and to hold, besides 
the farms of two very considerable districts, various trusts in 
the revenue ; sometimes openly appearing ; sometimes hid two 
or three deep in false names ; emerging into light, or shroud- 
ing himself in darkness, as successful, or defeated crimes ren- 
dered him bold or cautious. Every one of these trusts was 
marked with its own fraud ; and for one of those frauds com- 
mitted by him in another name, by which he became deeply in 
balance to the revenue, he was publicly whipped by proxy. 

All this while Mr. Hastings kept his eye upon him, and at- 
tended to his progress. But, as he rose in Mr. Hastings's opin- 
ion, he fell in that of his immediate employers. By degrees, as 
reason prevailed, and the fumes of pleasure evaporated, the 
provincial council emerged from their first dependence ; and, 
finding nothing but infamy attending the councils and services 
of such a man, resolved to dismiss him. In this strait, and crisis 
of his power, the artist turned himself into all shapes. He of- 
fered great sums individually; he offered them collectively; 
and at last put a carte blanche on the table — all to no purpose ! 
What ! are you stones ? — Have I not men to deal with 1 — Will 
flesh and blood refuse me 1 

When Debi Sing found, that the council had entirely escaped, 
and were proof against his offers, he left them with a sullen 
and menacing silence. He applied where he had good intelli- 
gence, that these offers would be well received ; and that he 
should at once be revenged of the council, and obtain all the 
ends which through them he had sought in vain. 

Without hesitation or scruple, Mr. Hastings sold a set of in- 
nocent officers ; sold his fellow-servants of the company, enti- 
tled by every duty to his protection ; sold English subjects, re- 
commended by every tie of national sympathy ; sold the honor 
of the British government itself ; without charge, without com- 
plaint, without allegation of crime in conduct, or of insufficiency 
in talents ; he sold them to the most known and abandoned 
character, which the rank servitude of that clime produces. 
For him, he entirely broke and quashed the council of Moors- 
hedabad, which had been the settled government for twelve 
years, (a long period in the changeful history of India,) at a 
time too when it had acquired a great degree of consistency* 



313 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

an official experience, a knowledge and habit of business, and 
"was making full amends for early errors. 

For now Mr. Hastings, having buried Colonel Monson and 
General Clavering, and having shaken off Mr. Francis, who 
retired half dead from office, began at length to respire ; he 
found elbow-room once more to display his genuine nature and 
disposition, and to make amends in a riot and debauch of 
peculation for the forced abstinence, to which he was reduced 
during the usurped dominion of honor and integrity. 

It was not enough, that the English were thus sacrificed to 
the revenge of Debi Sing. It was necessary to dehver over 
the natives to his avarice. By the intervention of bribe broker- 
age, he united the two great rivals in iniquity, who before from 
an emulation of crimes were enemies to each other, Gunga 
Govin Sing, and Debi Sing. He negotiated the bribe and the 
farm of the latter through the former; and Debi Sing was 
invested in farm for two years with the three provinces of 
Dinagepore, Edrackpore, and Rungpore ; territories, making 
together a tract of land superior in dimensions to the northern 
counties of England, Yorkshire included. 

To prevent anything, which might prove an obstacle on the 
full swing of his genius, he removed all the restraints, which 
had been framed to give an ostensible credit, to give some 
show of official order, to the plans of revenue administration 
framed from time to time in Bengal. An officer, called a 
dewan, had been established in the provinces, expressly as a 
check on the person who should act as farmer-general. This 
office he conferred along with that of farmer-general on Debi 
Sing, in order that Debi might become an effectual check upon 
Sing ; and thus these provinces, without inspection, without 
control, without law, and without magistrates, were delivered 
over by Mr. Hastings, bound hand and foot, to the discretion 
of the man, whom he had before recorded as the destroyer of 
Purnea ; and capable of every the most atrocious wickedness, 
that could be imputed to man. 

Fatally for the natives of India, every wild project and 
every corrupt sale of Mr. Hastings, and those whose example 
he followed, is covered with a pretended increase of revenue 
to the company. Mr. Hastings would not pocket his bribe of 
40,000/. for himself without letting the company in as a sharer 
and accomplice. For the province of Rungpore, the object, to 
which I mean in this instance to confine your attention, 7,000/. 
a year was added. But lest this avowed increase of rent 
should seem to lead to oppression, great and religious care was 
taken in the covenant, so stipulated with' Debi Sing, that this 
increase should not arise from any additional assessment what- 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 313 

soever on the country, but solely from improvements in the 
cultivation, and the encouragement to be given to the land- 
holder and husbandman. But as Mr. Hastings's bribe, of a far 
greater sum, was not guarded by any such provision, it was 
left to the discretion of the donor in what manner he was to 
indemnify himself for it. 

Debi Sing fixed the seat of his authority at Dinagepore, 
where as soon as he arrived, he did not lose a moment in doing 
his duty. If Mr. Hastings can forget his covenant, you may 
easily beheve, that Debi Sing had not a more correct memory; 
and, accordingly, as soon as he came into the province, he in- 
stantly broke every covenant, which he had entered into, as a 
restraint on his avarice, rapacity and tyranny; which, from 
the highest of the nobility and gentry to the lowest husband- 
man, were afterwards exercised, with a stern and unrelenting 
impartiality, upon the whole people. For notwithstanding the 
province before Debi Sing's lease was, from various causes, in 
a state of declension, and in balance for the revenue of the 
preceding year, at his very first entrance into office he forced 
from the zemindars or landed gentry an enormous increase of 
their tribute. They refused compliance. On this refusal he 
threw the whole body of zemindars into prison; and thus in 
bonds and fetters compelled them to sign their own ruin by an 
increase of rent, w^hich they knew they could never realize. 

Having thus gotten ihem under, he added exaction to exac- 
tion, so that every day announced some new and varied de- 
mand ; until exhausted by these oppressions they were brought 
to the extremity, to which he meant to drive them, the sale of 
their lands. 

The lands held by the zemindars of that country are of 
many descriptions. The first and most general are those, that 
pay revenue. The others are of the nature of demesne lands, 
which are free and pay no rent to government. The latter are 
for the immediate support of the zemindars and their families, 
as from the former they derive their influence, authority, and 
the means of upholding their dignity. The lands of the former 
description were immediately attached, sequestered and sold 
for the most trifling consideration. The rent-free lands, the 
best and richest lands of the whole province, were sold — sold 
for — what do your lordships think ? — They were sold for less 
than one year's purchase, — at less than one year's purchase, at 
the most underrated value ; so that the fee simple of an Eng- 
hsh acre of rent-free land sold at the rate of seven or eight 
shillings. Such a sale on such terms strongly indicated the 
purchaser. And how did it turn out in fact ? The purchaser 
was the very agent and instrument of Mr. Hastings, Debi Sing 

2P 27 



314 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

himself. He made the exaction; he forced the sale; he re- 
duced the rate ; and he became the purchaser at less than one 
year's purchase, and paid with the very money which he had 
extorted from the miserable vendors. 

When he had thus sold and separated these lands, he united 
the whole body of them, amounting to about 7,000/. sterling a 
year (but according to the rate of money and living in that 
country equivalent to a rental in England of 30,000Z. a year) ; 
and then having raised in the new letting, as on the sale he had 
fraudulently reduced, those lands, he reserved them as an estate 
for himself, or to whomsoever resembling himself Mr. Hastings 
should order them to be disposed. 

The lands, thus sold for next to nothing, left of course the 
late landholder still in debt. The failure of fund, the rigorous 
exaction of debt, and the multiplication of new arbitrary taxes 
next carried off the goods. There is a circumstance attending 
this business, which will call for your lordships' pity. Most of 
the landholders or zemindars in that country happened at that 
time to be women. The sex there is in a state certainly re- 
sembling imprisonment, but guarded as a sacred treasure with 
all possible attention and respect. None of the coarse male 
hands of the law can reach them; but they have a custom; 
very cautiously used in all good governments there, of employ- 
ing female bailiffs, or sergeants, in the execution of the law, 
where that sex is concerned. Guards, therefore, surrounded 
the houses ; and then female sergeants and bailiffs entered into 
the habitations of these female zemindars, and held their goods 
and persons in execution, nothing being left but, what was 
daily threatened, their life, and honor. The landholders, even 
women of eminent rank and condition, for such the greatest 
part of the zemindars then were, fled from the ancient seats of 
their ancestors, and left their miserable followers and servants, 
who in that country are infinitely numerous, without protection, 
and without bread. The monthly instalment of Mr. Hastings's 
bribe was become due, and his rapacity must be fed from the 
vitals of the people. 

The zemindars, before their own flight, had the mortification 
to see all the lands assigned to charitable and to religious uses, 
the humane and pious foundations of themselves and their an- 
cestors, made to support infirmity and decrepitude, to give feet 
to the lame, and eyes to the blind, and to effect which they had 
deprived themselves of many of the enjoyments of hfe, cruelly 
sequestered and sold at the same market of violence and fraud, 
where their demesne possessions and their goods had been be- 
fore made away with. Even the lands and funds set aside for 
their funeral ceremonies, in which they hoped to find an end to 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 315 

their miseries, and some indemnity of imagination for all the 
substantial sufferings of their lives : even the very feeble con- 
solations of death v^ere by the same rigid hand of tyranny, a 
tyranny more consuming than the funeral pile, more greedy 
than the grave, and more inexorable than death itself, seized 
and taken to make good the honor of corruption, and the faith 
of bribery pledged to Mr. Hastings or his instruments. 

Thus it fared v^^ith the better and middhng orders of the 
people. Were the lower, the more industrious spared? — Alas! 
as their situation v^^as far more helpless, their oppression wsls 
infinitely more sore and grievous ; the exactions yet more ex- 
cessive, the demand yet more vexatious, more capricious, more 
arbitrary. To afford your lordships some idea of the condition 
of those, who were served up to satisfy Mr. Hastings's hunger 
and thirst for bribes, I shall read it to you in the very words 
of the representative tyrant himself. Rajah Debi Sing. Debi 
Sing, when he was charged with a fraudulent sale of the orna- 
ments of gold and silver of women, who according to the 
modes of that country had starved themselves to decorate their 
unhappy persons, argued on the improbability of this part of 
the charge, in these very words : 

" It is notorious," says he, " that poverty generally prevails 
amongst the husbandmen of Rungpore, more perhaps than in 
any other parts of the country. They are seldom possessed of 
any property except at the time they reap their harvest ; and at 
others, barely procure their subsistence. And this is the cause 
that such numbers of them were swept away by the famine. 
Their effects are only a little earthenware, and their houses 
only a handful of straw ; the sale of a thousand of which would 
not perhaps produce twenty shillings." 

These were the opulent people, from whose superfluities Mr. 
Hastings was to obtain a gift of 40,000/. over and above a 
large increase of rent, over and above the exactions, by which 
the farmer must reimburse himself for the advance of the 
money, by which he must obtain the natural profit of the farm, 
as well as supply the peculium of his own avarice. 

Therefore your lordships will not be surprised at the conse- 
quences. All this unhappy race of little farmers, and tillers of 
the soil, were driven like a herd of cattle by his extortioners, 
and compelled by imprisonments, by fetters, and by cruel 
whippings, to engage for more than the whole of their substance 
or possible acquisition. 

Over and above this, there was no mode of extortion which 
the inventive imagination of rapacity could contrive, that was 
not contrived and was not put in practice. On its own day 
your lordships will hear with astonishment, detestation and 



216 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

horror, the detail of these tyrannous inventions; and it will 
appear, that the aggregate of these superadded demands 
amounted to as great a sum as the whole of the compulsory- 
rent, on which they were piled. 

The country being in many parts left wholly waste, and in 
all parts considerably depopulated by the first rigors, the full 
rate of the district was exacted from the miserable survivors. 
Their burdens were increased, as their fellow laborers, to 
whose joint efforts they were to owe the means of payment, 
diminished. Driven to make payments, beyond all possible 
calculation, previous to receipts and above their means, in a 
very short time they fell into the hands of usurers. 

The usurers, who under such a government held their own 
funds by a precarious tenure, and were to lend to those whose 
substance was still more precarious, (to the natural hardness 
and austerity of that race of men,) had additional motives to 
extortion, and made their terms accordingly. And what were 
the terms these poor people were obliged to consent to, to 
answer the bribes and peshcush paid to Mr. Hastings ? five, ten, 
twenty, forty per cent. ? No ! at an interest of six hundred per 
cent, per annum, payable by the day ! A tiller of land to pay 
six hundred per cent., to discharge the demands of government ! 
What exhaustless fund of opulence could supply this destructive 
resource of wretchedness and misery ? Accordingly, the hus- 
bandman ground to powder between the usurer below and the 
oppressor above, the whole crop of the country was forced at 
once to market; and the market glutted, overcharged and 
suflfocated, the price of grain fell to the fifth part of its usual 
value. The crop was then gone, but the debt remained. An 
universal treasury extent, and process of execution, followed 
on the cattle and stock, and was enforced, w-ith more or less 
rigor, in every quarter. We have it in evidence, that in 
those sales five cows were sold for not more than seven or 
eight shillings. All other things were depreciated in the same 
proportion. The sale of the instruments of husbandry suc- 
ceeded to that of the corn and stock. Instances there are, 
where, all other things failing, the farmers were dragged from 
the court to their houses, in order to see them first plundered, 
and then burnt down before their faces. It was not a rigorous 
collection of revenue, it was a savage war made upon the 
country. 

The peasants were left little else than their families and 
their bodies. The families were disposed of. It is a known 
observation, that those, who have the fewest of all other worldly 
enjoyments, are the most tenderly attached to their children 
and wives. The most tender of parents sold their children at 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 317 

market. The most fondly jealous of husbands sold their wives. 
The tyranny of Mr. Hastings extinguished every sentiment of 
father, son, brother, and husband ! 

I come now to the last stage of their miseries : everything 
visible and vendible was seized and sold. Nothing but the 
bodies remained. 

It is the nature of tyranny and rapacity never to learn 
moderation from the ill success of first oppressions; on the 
contrary, all oppressors, all men thinking highly of the methods 
dictated by their nature, attribute the frustration of their desires 
to the want of sufficient rigor. Then they redouble the efforts 
of their impotent cruelty ; which producing, as they must ever 
produce, new disappointments, they grow irritated against the 
objects of their rapacity ; and then, rage, fury and malice (im- 
placable because unprovoked) recruiting and reinforcing their 
avarice, their vices are no longer human. From cruel men 
they are transformed into savage beasts, with no other vestiges 
of reason left but what serves to furnish the inventions and 
refinements of ferocious subtlety, for purposes of which beasts 
are incapable, and at which fiends would blush. 

Debi Sing and his instruments suspected, and in a few cases 
they suspected justly, that the country people had purloined 
from their own estates, and had hidden in secret places in the 
circumjacent deserts, some small reserve of their own grain to 
maintain themselves during the unproductive months of the 
year, and to leave some hope for a future season. But the 
under tyrants knew, that the demands of Mr. Hastings would 
admit no plea for delay, much less for subtraction of his bribe, 
and that he would not abate a shilling of it to the wants of the 
whole human race. These hoards, real or supposed, not being 
discovered by menaces and imprisonment, they fell upon the 
last resource, the naked bodies of the people. And here, my 
lords, began such a scene of cruelties and tortures, as I believe 
no history has ever presented to the indignation of the world ; 
such as I am sure, in the most barbarous ages, no politic tyran- 
ny, no fanatic persecution has ever yet exceeded. Mr. Pater- 
son, the commissioner appointed to inquire into the state of the 
country, makes his own apology and mine for opening this 
scene of horrors to you in the following words : " That the 
punishments, inflicted upon the ryotts both of Rungpore and 
Dinagepore for non-payment, were in many instances of such 
a nature, that I would rather wish to draw a veil over them, 
than shock your feehngs by the detail. But that however 
disagreeable the task may be to myself, it is absolutely neces- 
sary for the sake of justice, humanity, and the honor of gov- 
ernment, that they should be exposed, to be prevented in future." 

27* 



318 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

My lords, they began by winding cords round the fingers of 
the unhappy freeholders of those provinces, until they clung to 
and were almost incorporated with one another ; and then they 
hammered wedges of iron between them, until, regardless of 
the cries of the sufferers, they had bruised to pieces and for 
ever crippled those poor, honest, innocent, laborious hands, 
which had never been raised to their mouths, but with a penuri- 
ous and scanty proportion of the fruits of their own soil ; but 
those fruits (denied to the wants of their own children) have 
for more than fifteen years past furnished the investment for 
our trade with China, and been sent annually out, and without 
recompense, to purchase for us that delicate meal, with which 
your lordships, and all this auditory, and all this country, have 
begun every day for these fifteen years at their expense. To 
those beneficent hands, that labor for our benefit, the return of 
the British government has been cords, and hammers, and 
wedges. But there is a place where these crippled and disabled 
hands will act with resistless power. What is it, that they will 
not pull down, when they are lifted to heaven against their 
oppressors ? Then what can withstand such hands ? Can the 
power, that crushed and destroyed them ? Powerful in prayer, 
let us at least deprecate, and thus endeavor to secure ourselves 
from, the vengeance, which these mashed and disabled hands 
may pull down upon us. My lords, it is an awful consideration. 
Let us think of it. 

But to pursue this melancholy but necessary detail. I am 
next to open to your lordships, what I am hereafter to prove, 
that the most substantial and leading yeomen, the responsible 
farmers, the parochial magistrates, and chiefs of villages, were 
tied two and two by the legs together ; and their tormentors, 
throwing them with their heads downwards over a bar, beat 
them on the soles of the feet with ratans, until the nails fell from 
the toes ; and then attacking them at their heads, as they hung 
downward, as before at their feet, they beat them with sticks 
and other instruments of blind fury, until the blood gushed out 
at their eyes, mouths, and noses. 

Not thinking that the ordinary whips and cudgels, even so 
administered, were sufficient, to others (and often also to the 
same, who had suffered as I have stated) they applied, instead 
of ratan and bamboo, whips made of the branches of the bale 
tree ; a tree full of sharp and strong thorns, which tear the skin 
and lacerate the flesh far worse than ordinary scourges. 

For others, exploring with a searching and inquisitive malice, 
stimulated by an insatiate rapacity, all the devious paths of na- 
ture for whatever is most unfriendly to man, they made rods 
of a plant highly caustic and poisonous, called hecheiiea, every 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ, 319 

wound of which festers and gangrenes, adds double and treble 
to the present torture, leaves a crust of leprous sores upon the 
body, and often ends in the destruction of life itself. 

At night, these poor innocent sufferers, these martyrs of ava- 
rice and extortion, were brought into dungeons; and in the 
season when nature takes refuge in insensibility from all the 
miseries and cares which wait on life, they were three times 
scourged, and made to reckon the watches of the night by pe- 
riods and intervals of torment. They were then led out in the 
severe depth of winter, which there at certain seasons would 
be severe to any, to the Indians is most severe and almost in- 
tolerable, — they were led out before break of day, and, stiif 
and sore as they were with the bruises and wounds of the night, 
were plunged into water ; and whilst their jaws clung together 
with the cold, and their bodies were rendered infinitely more 
sensible, the blows and stripes were renewed upon their backs ; 
and then, delivering them over to soldiers, they were sent into 
their farms and villages to discover where a few handfuls of 
grain might be found concealed, or to extract some loan from 
the remnants of compassion and courage not subdued in those, 
who had reason to fear, that their own turn of torment would 
be next, that they should succeed them in the same punishment, 
and that their very humanity, being taken as a proof of their 
wealth, would subject them (as it did in many cases subjeat 
them) to the same inhuman tortures. After this circuit of the 
day through their plundered and ruined villages, they were re- 
manded at night to the same prison ; whipped, as before, at their 
return to the dungeon ; and at morning whipped at their leav- 
ing it ; and then sent as before to purchase, by begging in the 
day, the reiteration of the torture in the night. Days of menace, 
insult, and extortion ; — nights of bolts, fetters, and flagellation 
succeeded to each other in the same round, and for a long time 
made up all the vicissitude of Hfe to these miserable people. 

But there are persons, whose fortitude could bear their own 
suffering ; there are men, who are hardened by their very pains ; 
and the mind, strengthened even by the torments of the body, 
rises with a strong defiance against its oppressor. They were 
assaulted on the side of their sympathy. Children were scourged 
almost to death in the presence of their parents. This was not 
enough. The son and father were bound close together, face 
to face, and body to body, and in that situation cruelly lashed 
together, so that the blow, which escaped the father, fell upon 
the son, and the blow, which missed the son, wound over the 
back of the parent. The circumstances were combined by so 
subtle a cruelty, that every stroke, which did not excruciate the 



320 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

sense, should wound and lacerate the sentiments and affections 
of nature. 

On the same principle, and for the same ends, virgins, who 
had never seen the sun, were dragged from the inmost sanctua- 
ries of their houses ; and in the open court of justice, in the 
very place where security was to be sought against all wrong 
and all violence, (but where no judge or lawful magistrate had 
long sat, but in their place the ruffians and hangmen of Warren 
Hastings occupied the bench,) these virgins, vainly invoking 
heaven and earth, in the presence of their parents, and whilst 
their shrieks were mingled with the indignant cries and groans 
of all the people, publicly were violated by the lowest and 
wickedest of the human race. Wives were torn from the arms 
of their husbands, and suffered the same flagitious wrongs, 
which were indeed hid in the bottoms of the dungeons, in which 
their honor and their hberty were buried together. Often they 
were taken out of the refuge of this consoling gloom, stripped 
naked, and thus exposed to the world, and then cruelly scourged ; 
and in order that cruelty might riot in all the circumstances, 
that melt into tenderness the fiercest natures, the nipples of their 
breasts were put between the sharp and elastic sides of cleft 
bamboos. Here, in my hand, is my authority ; for otherwise 
one would think it incredible. But it did not end there. Grow- 
ing from crime to crime, ripened by cruelty for cruelty, these I 
fiends, at length outraging sex, decency, nature, appHed lighted ' 
torches and slow fire — (I cannot proceed for shame and hor- 
ror !) these infernal furies planted death in the source of life, 
and where that modesty, which, more than reason, distinguishes 
men from beasts, retires from the view, and even shrinks from 
the expression, there they exercised and glutted their unnatural, 
monstrous, and nefarious cruelty, — there, where the reverence 
of nature, and the sanctity of justice, dares not to pursue, nor 
venture to describe their practices. 

These, my lords, were sufferings, which we feel all in com- 
mon, in India and in England, by the general sympathy of our 
common nature. But there were in that province (sold to the 
tormentors by Mr. Hastings,) things done, which, from the pe- 
culiar manners of India, were even worse than all I have laid 
before you ; as the dominion of manners, and the law of opin- 
ion, contribute more to their happiness and misery than any- 
thing in mere sensitive nature can do. 

The women thus treated lost their caste. My lords, we are 
not here to commend or blame the institutions and prejudices 
of a whole race of people, radicated in them by a long succes- 
sion of ages, on which no reason or argument, on which no vi- 
cissitudes of things, no mixtures of men, or foreign conquest. 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 321 

have been able to make the smallest impression. The aborigi- 
nal Gentu inhabitants are all dispersed into tribes or castes ; each 
caste born to an invariable rank, rights, and descriptions of em- 
ployment; so that one caste cannot by any means pass into an- 
other. With the Gentus certain impurities or disgraces, though 
without any guilt of the party, infer loss of caste ; and when 
the highest caste, that of Brahmin, which is not only noble but 
sacred, is lost, the person, who loses it, does not slide down into 
one lower but reputable — he is wholly driven from all honest 
society. All the relations of life are at once dissolved. His 
parents are no longer his parents ; his wife is no longer his 
wife ; his children, no longer his, are no longer to regard him 
as their father. It is something far worse than complete out- 
lawry, complete attainder, and universal excommunication. It 
is a pollution even to touch him ; and if he touches any of his 
old caste, they are justified in putting him to death. Contagion, 
leprosy, plague, are not so much shunned. No honest occupa- 
tion can be followed. He becomes an Halichore, if (which is 
rare) he survives that miserable degradation. 

Upon those, whom all the shocking catalogue of tortures I 
have mentioned could not make to flinch, one of the modes of 
losing caste for Brahmins, and other principal tribes, was prac- 
tised. It was, to harness a bullock at the court door, and to 
put the Brahmin on his back, and to lead him through the 
towns, with drums beating before him. To intimidate others, 
this bullock, with drums, the instrument according to their ideas 
of outrage, disgrace, and utter loss of caste, was led through 
the country ; and, as it advanced, the country fled before it. 
When any Brahmin was seized he was threatened with this 
pillory, and for the most part he submitted in a moment to 
whatever was ordered. What it was may be thence judged. 
But when no possibility existed of complying with the demand, 
the people by their cries sometimes prevailed on the tyrants to 
have it commuted for cruel scourging, which was accepted as 
mercy. To some Brahmins this mercy was denied, and the act 
of indelible infamy executed. Of these men one came to the 
company's commissioner with the tale, and ended with these 
melancholy words, — " I have suffered this indignity ; my caste 
is lost ; my life is a burden to me ; I call for justice." He called 
in vain. 

Your lordships will not wonder, that these monstrous and 
oppressive demands, exacted with such tortures, threw the 
whole province into despair. They abandoned their crops on 
the ground. The people, in a body, would have fled out of its 
confines; but bands of soldiers invested the avenues of the 
province, and, making a line of circumvallation, drove back 

2Q 



322 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

those wretches, who sought exile as a reUef, into the prison of 
their native soil. Not suffered to quit the district, they fled to 
the many wild thickets, which oppression had scattered through 
it, and sought amongst the jungles, and dens of tygers, a refuge 
from the tyranny of Warren Hastings. Not able long to exist 
here, pressed at once by wild beasts and famine, the same 
despair drove them back; and seeking their last resource in 
arms, the most quiet, the most passive, the most timid of the 
human race, rose up in an universal insurrection ; and, what 
will always happen in popular tumults, the effects of the fury 
of the people fell on the meaner and sometimes the reluctant | 
instruments of the tyranny, who in several places were mas- f 
sacred. The insurrection began in Rungpore, and soon spread 
its fire to the neighboring provinces, which had been harassed 
by the same person with the same oppressions. The English 
chief in that province had been the silent witness, most proba- 
bly the abettor and accomplice, of all these horrors. He called 
in first irregular, and then regular, troops, who by dreadful and 
universal military execution got the better of the impotent re- 
sistance of unarmed and undisciplined despair. I am tired with 
the detail of the cruelties of peace. I spare you those of a 
cruel and inhuman war, and of the executions, which, without 
law or process, or even the shadow of authority, were ordered 
by the English revenue chief in that province. 

It has been necessary to lay these facts before you (and I i 
have stated them to your lordships far short of their reality, 
partly through my infirmity, and partly on account of the odious- 
ness of the task of going through things, that disgrace human 
nature) that you may be enabled fully to enter into the dreadful 
consequences, which attend a system of bribery and corrup- 
tion in a governor-general. On a transient view, bribery is I 
rather a subject of disgust than horror; the sordid practice of " 
a venal, mean, and abject mind; and the effect of the crime 
seems to end with the act. It looks to be no more than the 
corrupt transfer of property from one person to another ; at 
worst a theft. But it will appear in a very different light, when 
you regard the consideration, for which the bribe is given ; 
namely, that a governor-general, claiming an arbitrary power 
in himself, for that consideration delivers up the properties, the 
liberties, and the lives of a whole people to the arbitrary dis- 
cretion of any wicked and rapacious person, who will be sure 
to make good from their blood the purchase he has paid for his 
power over them. It is possible, that a man may pay a bribe 
merely to redeem himself from some evil. It is bad however 
to five under a power, whose violence has no restraint except . 
in its avarice. But no man ever paid a bribe for a power to 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 323 

charge and tax others, but with a view to oppress them. No 
man ever paid a bribe for the handling of the public money, 
but to peculate from it. When once such offices become thus 
privately and corruptly venal, the very worst men will be cho- 
sen (as Mr. Hastings has in fact constantly chosen the very 
worst,) because none but those, who do not scruple the use of 
any means, are capable, consistently with profit, to discharge 
at once the rigid demands of a severe public revenue, and the 
private bribes of a rapacious chief magistrate. Not only the 
worst men will be thus chosen, but they will be restrained by 
no dread whatsoever in the execution of their worst oppres- 
sions. Their protection is sure. The authority that is to re- 
strain, to control, to punish them, is previously engaged ; he 
has his retaining fee for the support of their crimes. Mr. Hast- 
ings never dared, because he could not, arrest oppression in its 
course, without drying up the source of his own corrupt emolu- 
ment. Mr. Hastings never dared, after the fact, to punish ex- 
tortion in others, because he could not, without risking the dis- 
covery of bribery in himself The same corruption, the same 
oppression, and the same impunity, will reign through all the 
subordinate gradations. 

A fair revenue may be collected without the aid of wicked, 
violent, and unjust instruments. But, when once the line of just 
and legal demand is transgressed, such instruments are of ab- 
solute necessity; and they comport themselves accordingly. 
When we know, that men must be well paid (and they ought 
to be well paid) for the performance of honorable duty, can we 
think, that men will be found to commit wicked, rapacious, and 
oppressive acts with fidelity and disinterestedness, for the sole 
emolument of dishonest employers ? No ; they must have their 
full share of the prey, and the greater share as they are the 
nearer and more necessary instruments of the general extortion. 
We must not therefore flatter ourselves, when Mr. Hastings 
takes 40,000/. in bribes for Dinagepore and its annexed prov- 
inces, that from the people nothing more than 40,000/. is 
extorted. I speak within compass, four times forty must be 
levied on the people ; and these violent sales, fraudulent pur- 
chases, confiscations, inhuman and unutterable tortures, impris- 
onment, irons, whips, fines, general despair, general insurrection, 
the massacre of the officers of revenue by the people, the mas- 
sacre of the people by the soldiery, and the total waste and 
destruction of the finest provinces in India, are things of course; 
and all a necessary consequence involved in the very substance 
of Mr. Hastings's bribery. 

I, therefore, charge Mr. Hastings with having destroyed, for 



324 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH ON THE 

private purposes, the whole system of government by the six 
provincial councils, which he had no right to destroy." 

I charge him with having delegated to others that power, 
which the act of parhament had directed him to preserve un- 
alienably in himself. 

I charge him with having formed a committee to be mere 
instruments and tools, at the enormous expense of 62,000/. per 
annum. 

I charge him with having appointed a person their dewan, 
to whom these Englishmen were to be subservient tools ; whose 
name, to his own knowledge, was by the general voice of India, 
by the general recorded voice of the company, by recorded 
official transactions, by everything, that can make a man 
known, abhorred, and detested, stamped with infamy ; and with 
giving him the whole power, which he had thus separated from 
the council-general, and from the provincial councils. 

I charge him with taking bribes of Gunga Govin Sing. 

I charge him with not having done that bribe-service, which 
fidelity even in iniquity requires at the hands of the worst of 
men. 

I charge him with having robbed those people, of whom he 
took the bribes. 

I charge him with having fraudulently alienated the fortunes 
of widows. 

I charge him with having, without right, title, or purchase, 
taken the lands of orphans, and given them to wicked persons, 
under him. 

I charge him with having removed the natural guardians of 

a minor rajah, and with having given that trust to a stranger, 

Debi Sing, whose wickedness was known to himself and all the 

' world ; and by whom the rajah, his family, and dependants, 

were cruelly oppressed. 

I charge him with having committed to the management of 
Debi Sing three great provinces; and thereby, with having 
wasted the country, ruined the landed interest, cruelly harassed 
the peasants, burnt their houses, seized their crops, tortured and 
degraded their persons, and destroyed the honor of the whole 
female race of that country. 

In the name of the Commons of England, I charge all this 
villany upon Warren Hastings, in this last moment of my ap- 
plication to you. 

My lords, what is it, that we want here to a great act of na- 
tional justice ? Do we want a cause, my lords ? You have the 
cause of oppressed princes, of undone women of the first rank, 
of desolated provinces, and of wasted kingdoms. 

Do you want a criminal, my lords ? When was there so 



IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. 325 

much iniquity ever laid to the charge of any one ?— No, my 
lords, you must not look to punish any other such delinquent from 
India. — Warren Hastings has not left substance enough in India 
to nourish such another dehnquent. 

My lords, is it a prosecutor you want? — You have before 
you the Commons of Great Britain as prosecutors ; and, I be- 
lieve, my lords, that the sun, in his beneficent progress round 
the world, does not behold a more glorious sight than that of 
men, separated from a remote people by the material bounds 
and barriers of nature, united by the bond of a social and 
moral community ; — all the Commons of England resenting, as 
their own, the indignities and cruelties, that are offered to all 
the people of India. 

Do we want a tribunal ? My lords, no example of antiqui- 
ty, nothing in the modern world, nothing in the range of human 
imagination, can supply us with a tribunal like this. My lords, 
here we see virtually in the mind's eye that sacred majesty of 
the crown, under whose authority you sit, and whose power 
you exercise. We see in that invisible authority, what we all 
feel in reality and hfe, the beneficent powers and protecting 
justice of his majesty. We have here the heir apparent to the 
crown, such as the fond wishes of the people of England wish 
an heir apparent of the crown to be. We have here all the 
branches of the royal family in a situation between majesty 
and subjection, between the sovereign and the subject,-^offering 
a pledge in that situation for the support of the rights of the 
crown, and the liberties of the people, both which extremities 
they touch. My lords, we have a great hereditary peerage 
here; those, who have their own honor, the honor of their 
ancestors, and of their posterity, to guard; and who will 
justify, as they have always justified, that provision in the con- 
stitution, by which justice is made an hereditary office. My 
lords, we have here a new nobility, who have risen, and ex- 
alted themselves by various merits, by great military services, 
which have extended the fame of this country from the rising 
to the setting sun : we have those, who by various civil merits 
and various civil talents have been exalted to a situation, which 
they well deserve, and in which they will justify the favor of 
their sovereign, and the good opinion of their fellow subjects ; 
and make them rejoice to see those virtuous characters, that 
were the other day upon a level with them, now exalted above 
them in rank, but feeling with them in sympathy what they felt 
in common with them before. We have persons exalted 
from the practice of the law, from the place in which they 
administered high, though subordinate, justice, to a seat here, 
to enlighten with their knowledge, and to strengthen with their 

28 



326 MR. BURKE'S SPEECH, &c. 

votes those principles, which have distinguished the courts, in 
which they have presided. 

My lords, you have here also the lights of our religion ; you 
have the bishops of England. My lords, you have that true 
image of the primitive church in its ancient form, in its ancient 
ordinances, purified from the superstitions and the vices which 
a long succession of ages will bring upon the best institutions. 
You have the representatives of that religion, which says, that 
their God is love, that the very vital spirit of their institution is 
charity; a religion, which so much hates oppression, that, 
when the God, whom we adore, appeared in human form, he 
did not appear in a form of greatness and majesty, but in sympa- 
thy with the lowest of the people, — and thereby made it a firm 
and ruling principle, that their welfare was the object of all 
government ; since the person, who was the Master of Nature, 
chose to appear himself in a subordinate situation. These are 
the considerations, which influence them, which animate them, 
and will animate them, against all oppression ; knowing, that 
He, who is called first among them, and first among us all, both 
of the flock that is fed, and of those who feed it, made Him- 
self " the servant of all." 

My lords, these are the securities, which we have in all the 
constituent parts of the body of this house. We know them, 
we reckon, we rest upon them, and commit safely the interests 
of India and of humanity into your hands. Therefore, it is 
with confidence, that, ordered by the Commons, 

I impeach Warren Hastings, Esquire, of high crimes and 
misdemeanors. 

I impeach him in the name of the Commons of Great Britain 
in parliament assembled, whose parliamentary trust he has be- 
trayed. 

I impeach him in the 'name of all the Commons of Great 
Britain, whose national character he has dishonored. 

I impeach him in the name of the people of India, whose 
laws, rights, and liberties he has subverted; whose properties 
he has destroyed, whose country he has laid waste and desolate. 

I impeach him in the name, and by virtue, of those eternal 
laws of justice, which he has violated. 

I impeach him in the name of human nature itself, which he 
has cruelly outraged, injured, and oppressed in both sexes, in 
every age, rank, situation, and condition of life. 



MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH, 

IN 

DEFENCE OF THE LIBERTY OF THE PRESS, 

DELIVERED 

ON THE TRIAL OF THOMAS PAINE FOR A LIBEL. 

Gentlemen of the Jury, 

The Attorney General, in that part of his address which re- 
ferred to a letter, supposed to have been written to him from 
France, exhibited signs of strong sensibility and emotion. — I do 
not, I am sure, charge him with acting a part* to seduce you ; — 
on the contrary, I am persuaded, from my own feelings, and 
from my acquaintance with my friend from our childhood 
upwards, that he expressed himself as he felt. But, gentlemen, 
if he felt those painful embarrassments, you may imagine what 
mine must be : — he can only feel for the august character whom 
he represents in this place, as a subject for his Sovereign, too 
far removed by custom from the intercourses which generate 
affections, to produce any other sentiments than those that flow 
from a relation common to us all ; but it will be remembered, 
that I stand in the same relation towards another great person 
more deeply implicated by this supposed letter ; who, riot re- 
strained from the cultivation of personal attachments by those 
qualifications which must always secure them, has exalted my 
duty to a Prince, into a warm and honest affection between 
man and man. Thus circumstanced, I certainly should have 
been glad to have had an earher opportunity of knowing cor- 
rectly the contents of this letter, and whether (which I positively 
deny) it proceeded from the defendant. Coming thus suddenly 
upon us, I see but too plainly the impression it has made upon 
you who are to try the cause, and I feel its weight upon myself, 
who am to conduct it ; but this shall neither detach me from 
my duty, nor enervate me (if I can help it) in the discharge 
of it. 

If the Attorney General be well founded in the commentaries 
he has made to you upon the book which he prosecutes ; — if he 
be warranted by the law of England, in repressing its circula- 
tion, from the illegal and dangerous matters contained in it ; — 
if that suppression be, as he avows it, and as in common sense 
it must be, the sole object of the prosecution, the public has 



328 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH ON THE 

great reason to lament that this -letter should have been at all 
brought into the service of the cause : — It is no part of the 
charge upon the record ; — it had no existence for months after 
the w^ork was composed and pubhshed; — it w^as not written by 
the defendant, if written by him at all, till after he had been in 
a manner insultingly expelled from the country by the influence 
of government ; it was not even written till he had become the 
subject of another country. It cannot, therefore, by* any fair 
inference decipher the mind of the author when he composed 
his work : still less can it affect the construction of the language 
in which it is written. The introduction of this letter at all is, 
therefore, not only a departure from the charge, but a derehc- 
tion of the object of the prosecution, which is to condemn the 
hook: — since, if the condemnation of the author is to be ob- 
tained, not hy the work itself, but by collateral matter not even 
existing when it was written, nor known to its various publish- 
ers throughout t-he kingdom, how can a verdict upon such 
grounds condemn the work, or criminate other publishers, 
strangers to the collateral matter on which the conviction may 
be obtained to-day? I maintain, therefore, upon every principle 
of sound poHcy, as it affects the interests of the Crown, and 
upon every rule of justice, as it affects the author of The 
Rights of Man, that the letter should be wholly dismissed from 
your consideration. 

Gentlemen, the Attorney General has thought it necessary to*^ 
inform you, that a rumor had been spread, and had reached 
his ears, that he only carried on the prosecution as a public 
prosecutor, but without the concurrence of his own judgment ; 
and therefore to add the just weight of his private character to 
his public duty, and to repel what he thinks a calumny, he tells 
you that he should have deserved to have been driven from 
society, if he had not arraigned the work and the author before 
you. Here too we stand in situations very different : — I have 
no doubt of the existence of such a rumor, and of its having 
reached his ears, because he says so ; but for the narrow circle 
in which any rumor, personally implicating my learned friend's 
character, has extended, I might appeal to the multitudes who 
surround us, and ask, which of them all, except the few con- 
nected in office with the crown, ever heard of its existence. 
But with regard to myself, every man within hearing at this | 
moment, nay, the whole people of England, have been witnesses l| 
to the calumnious clamor that, by every art, has been raised 
and kept up against me: in every place, where business or 
pleasure collects the public together, day after day my name 
and character have been the topics of injurious reflection. And 
for what '?— only for not having shrunk from the discharge of a 



kl 



TRIAL OF THOMAS PAINE. 329 

duty, which no personal advantage recommended, and which 
a thousand difficuhies repelled. But, Gentlemen, I have no 
complaint to make, either against the printers of these libels, 
nor even against their authors : — the greater part of them, hur- 
ried perhaps away by honest prejudices, may have believed 
they were serving their country by rendering me the object of 
its suspicion and contempt ; and if there have been amongst 
them others who have mixed in it from personal mahce and 
unkindness, I thank God I can forgive them also. — Little indeed 
did they know me, who thought that such calumnies would in- 
fluence my conduct : I will for ever, at all hazards, assert the 
dignity, independence, and integrity of the English Bar ; with- 
out which, impartial justice, the most valuable part of the Eng- 
Hsh constitution, can have no existence. From the moment 
that any advocate can be permitted to say, that he will or will 
not stand between the crown and the subject arraigned in. the 
court where he daily sits to practise, from that moment the 
liberties of England are at an end. If the advocate refuses to 
defend, from what he may think of the charge or of the defence, 
he assumes the character of the Judge ; nay, he assumes it be- 
fore the hour of judgment; and in proportion to his rank and 
reputation, puts the heavy influence of, perhaps, a mistaken 
opinion into the scale against the accused, in whose favor the 
benevolent principle of EngUsh law makes all presumptions, 
and which commands the very judge to be his counsel. 

Gentlemen, it is now my duty to address myself without 
digression to the defence. 

The first thing which presents itself in the discussion of any 
subject, is to state distinctly, and with precision, what the ques- 
tion is, and, where prejudice and misrepresentation have been 
exerted, to distinguish it accurately from what it is not. The 
question then is not, whether the constitution of our fathers, 
under which we live — Under which I present myself before you, 
and under which alone you have any jurisdiction to hear me — 
be or be not preferable to the constitution of America or France, 
or any other human constitution. For upon what principle 
can a court, constituted by the authority of any government, 
and administering a positive system of law, under it, pronounce 
a decision against the constitution which creates its authority ; 
or the rule of action which its jurisdiction is to enforce ? — The 
common sense of the most uninformed person must revolt at 
such an absurd supposition. 

I have no difficulty, therefore, in admitting, that if by acci- 
dent some or all of you were ahenated in opinion and affection 
from the forms and principles of the EngHsh government, and 
were impressed with the value of that unmixed representative 

2 R 28* 



1 



330 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH ON THE 

constitution which this work recommends and inculcates, you 
could not, on that account, acquit the defendant. Nay, to speak 
out plainly, I freely admit that even if you were avowed ene- 
mies to monarchy, and devoted to republicanism, you would 
be nevertheless bound by your oaths, as a jury sworn to ad- 
minister justice according to the EngUsh law, to convict the 
author of The Rights of Man, if it were brought home to your 
consciences, that he had exceeded those widely extended 
bounds which the ancient wisdom and liberal policy of the 
Enghsh constitution have allotted to the range of a free press. 
I freely concede this, because you have no jurisdiction to judge 
ehher the author or the work, by any rule but that of Enghsh 
law, which is the source of your authority. But having made 
this large concession, it follows, by a consequence so inevitable 
as to be invulnerable to all argument or artifice, that if, on the 
other hand, you should be impressed (which I know you to be) 
not only with a dutiful regard, but with an enthusiasm, for the 
whole form and substance of your own government; and 
though you should think that this work, in its circulation 
amongst classes of men unequal to political researches, may 
tend to alienate opinion ; still you cannot, upon such grounds, 
without a similar breach of duty, convict the defendant of a 
libel, — unless he has clearly stepped beyond that extended 
range of communication which the same ancient wisdom and 
liberal policy of the British constitution has allotted for the 
liberty of the press. 

Gentlemen, I admit, with the Attorney General, that in every 
case where a court has to estimate the quahty of a writing, 
the mind and intention of the writer must be taken into the ac- 
count ; — the bona or mala fides, as lawyers express it, must be 
examined : for a writing niay undoubtedly proceed from a mo- 
tive, and be directed to a purpose, not to be deciphered by the 
mere construction of the thing written. But wherever a wri- 
ting is arraigned as seditious or slanderous, not upon its ordi- 
nary construction in language, nor from the necessary conse- 
quences of its publication, under any circumstances and at all 
times, but that the criminality springs from some extrinsic mat- 
ter, not visible upon the page itself, nor universally operative, 
but capable only of being connected with it by evidence, so as 
to demonstrate the effect of the publication, and the design of 
the pubhsher ; such a writing, not libellous per se, cannot be 
arraigned as the author's work is arraigned upon the record 
before the court. I maintain, without the hazard of contradic- 
tion, that the law of England positively requires, for the secu- 
rity of the subject, that every charge of a libel complicated 
with extrinsic facts and circumstances, dehors the writing, must 



TRIAL OF THOMAS PAINE. 331 

appear literally upon the record by an averment of such ex- 
trinsic facts and circumstances, that the defendant may know 
what crime he is called upon to answer, and how to stand upon 
his defence. What crime is it that the defendant comes to an- 
swer for to-day? — what is the notice that I, who am his coun- 
sel, have from this parchment of the crime alleged against 
him ? — I come to defend his having Vv^ritten this hook. The 
record states nothing else : — the general charge of sedition in 
the introduction is notoriously paper and packthread ; because 
the innuendoes cannot enlarge the sense or natural construction 
of the text. The record does not state any one extrinsic fact 
or circumstance, to render the work criminal, at one time more 
than another ; it states no pecuHarity of time or season, or in- 
tention, not proveable from the writing itself, which is the naked 
charge upon record. There is nothing therefore which gives 
you any jurisdiction beyond the construction of the i^'orA' itself; 
and you cannot be justified in finding it criminal because pub- 
lished at this time, unless it would have been a criminal publi- 
cation under any circumstances, or at any other time. > 

The law of England then, both in its forms and substance, 
being the only rule by which the author or the work can be 
justified or condemned, and the charge upon the record being 
the naked charge of a libel, the cause resolves itself into a ques- 
tion of the deepest importance to us all, the nature and ex- 
tent OF the liberty of the English press. 

But before I enter upon it, I wish to fulfil a duty to the de- 
fendant, which, if I do not deceive myself, is at this moment 
peculiarly necessary to his impartial trial. — If an advocate en- 
tertains sentiments injurious to the defence he is engaged in, 
he is not only justified, but bound in duty, to conceal them ; so, 
on the other hand, if his own genuine sentiments, or anything 
connected with his character or situation, can add strength to 
his professional assistance, he is bound to throw them into the 
scale.- In addressing myself, therefore, to gentlemen not only 
zealous for the honor of Enghsh government, but visibly indig- 
nant at any attack upon its principles, and who would, perhaps, 
be impatient of arguments from a suspected quarter, I give my 
client the benefit of declaring, that I am, and ever have been, 
attached to the genuine principles of the British government ; 
and that, however the court or you may reject the application, 
I defend him upon principles not only consistent with its per- 
manence and security, but without the estabhshment of which, 
it never could have had an existence. 

The proposition which I mean to maintain as the basis of 
the hberty of the press, and without which it is an empty 
sound, is this ; — that every man, not intending to mislead, but 



332 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH ON THE 

seeking to enlighten others with what his own reason and con- 
science, however erroneously, have dictated to him as truth, 
may address himself to the universal reason of a whole nation, 
either upon the subject of governments in general, or upon that 
of our own particular country : — that he may analyze the prin- 
ciples of its constitution, — point out its errors and defects, — 
examine and publish its corruptions, — warn his fellow-citizens 
against their ruinous consequences, and exert his whole facul- 
ties in pointing out the most advantageous changes in estabhsh- 
ments which he considers to be radically defective, or sliding 
from their object by abuse. — All this every subject of this 
country has a right to do, if he contemplates only what he 
thinks would be for its advantage, and but seeks to change the 
public mind by the conviction which flows from reasonings dic- 
tated by conscience. 

If, indeed, he writes what he does not think ; — if, contemplating 
the misery of others, he wickedly condemns what his own un- 
derstanding approves ; — or, even admitting his real disgust 
against the government or its corruptions, if he calumniates 
living magistrates, — or holds out to individuals, that they have 
a right to run before the pubUc mind in their conduct, — that 
they may oppose by contumacy or force what private reason 
only disapproves; — that they may disobey the law, because 
their judgment condemns it; — or resist the public will, because 
they honestly wish to change it — he is then a criminal upon 
every principle of rational policy, as well as upon the imme- 
morial precedents of English justice ; because such a person 
seeks to disunite individuals from their duty to the whole, and 
excites to overt acts of misconduct in a part of the community, 
instead of endeavoring to change, by the impulse of reason, 
that universal assent which, in this and in every country, con- 
stitutes the law for all. 

I have therefore no difficulty in admitting, that, if, upon an 
attentive perusal of this work, it shall be found that the Defend- 
ant has promulgated any doctrines which excite individuals 
to withdraw from their subjection to the law by which the 
whole nation consents to be governed ; — if his book shall be 
found to have warranted or excited that unfortunate criminal 
who appeared here yesterday to endeavor to relieve himself 
from imprisonment, by the destruction of a prison, or dictated 
to him the languag^e of defiance which ran through the whole 
of his defence ; — if throughout the work there shall be found 
any syllable or letter, which strikes at the security of property, 
or which hints that anything less than the whole nation can con- 
stitute the law, or that the law, be it what it may, is not the 



TRIAL OF THOMAS PAINE. 333 

inexorable rule of action for every individual, I willingly yield 
him up to the justice of the Court. 

Gentlemen, I say, in the name of Thomas Paine, and in his 
words as author of the Rights of Man, as Avritten in the 
very volume that is charged with seeking the destruction of 
property, 

" The end of all political associations is, the preservation of 
the rights of man, which rights are liberty, property, and secu- 
rity ; that the nation is the source of all sovereignty derived 
from it : the right of property being secured and inviolable, no 
one ought to be deprived of it, except in cases of evident pub- 
lic necessity, legally ascertained, and on condition of a previous 
just indemnity." 

These are undoubtedly the rights of man — the rights for 
which all governments are established — and the only rights 
Mr. Paine contends for ; but which he thinks (no matter whether 
right or wrong) are better to be secured by a repubhcan con- 
stitution than by the forms of the English government. He 
instructs me to admit, that, when government is once consti- 
tuted, no individuals, without rebellion, can withdraw their 
obedience from it, — that all attempts to excite them to it are 
highly criminal, for the most obvious reasons of policy and 
justice, — that nothing short of the will of a whole people can 
change or affect the rule by which a nation is to be governed 
— and that no private opinion, however honestly inimical to the 
forms or substance of the law, can justify resistance to its au- 
thority, while it remains in force. The author of the Rights of 
Man not only admits the truth of all this doctrine, but he con- 
sents to be convicted, and I also consent for him, unless his work 
shall be found studiously and painfully to inculcate these great 
principles of government which it is charged to have been 
written to destroy. 

Let me not, therefore, be suspected to be contending, that it 
is lawful to write a book pointing out defects in the English 
government, and exciting individuals to destroy its sanctions, 
and to refuse obedience. But, on the other hand, I do contend, 
that it is lawful to address the EngUsh nation on these moment- 
ous subjects; for had it not been for this unalienable right 
(thanks be to God and our fathers for estabhshing it,) how 
should we have had this constitution which we so loudly boast 
of? — If, in the march of the human mind, no man could have 
gone before the establishments of the time he lived in, how could 
our establishment, by reiterated changes, have become what it 
is ? — If no man could have awakened the public mind to errors 
and abuses in our government, how could it have passed on 
from stasce to stage, throuarh reformation and revolution, so as 



334 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH ON THE 

to have arrived from barbarism to such a pitch of happiness 
and perfection, that the Attorney-General considers it as pro- 
fanation to touch it farther, or to look for any future amend- 
ment 1 

In this manner pov^er has reasoned in every age : — govern- 
ment, in its own estimation, has been at all times a system of 
perfection ; but a free press has examined and detected its er- 
rors, and the people have from time to time reformed them. 
This freedom has alone made our government vv^hat it is; this 
freedom alone can preserve it ; and therefore, under the banners 
of that freedom, to-day 1 stand up to defend Thomas Paine. — 
But how, alas! shall this task be accomplished? — How may I 
expect from you what human nature has not made man for the 
performance of? — How am I to address your reasons, or ask 
them to pause, amidst the torrent of prejudice which has hur- 
ried away the public mind on the subject you are to judge ? 

Was any Englishman ever so brought as a criminal before 
an English court of justice ?— If I were to ask you, gentlemen 
of the jury, what is the choicest fruit that grows upon the tree 
of English liberty, you would answer, security under the law. 
If I were to ask the whole people of England, the return they 
looked for at the hands of government, for the burdens under 
which they bend to support it, I should still be answered, secu- 
rity UNDER THE LAW ; or, in other words, an impartial admin- 
istration of justice. So sacred, therefore, has the freedom of 
trial been ever held in England ; — so anxiously does Justice 
guard against every possible bias in her path, that if the public 
mind has been locally agitated upon any subject in judgment, 
the forum has either been changed, or the trial postponed. The 
circulation of any paper that brings, or can be supposed to 
bring, prejudice, or even well-founded knowledge, within the 
reach of a British tribunal, on the spur of an occasion, is not 
only highly criminal, but defeats itself, by leading to put off the 
trial which its object was to pervert. On this principle, the 
noble and learned judge will permit me to remind him, that on 
the trial of the Dean of St. Asaph for a libel, or rather when 
he was brought to trial, the circulation of books by a society 
favorable to his defence, was held by his lordship, as chief jus- 
tice of Chester, to be a reason for not trying the cause; 
although they contained no matter relative to the dean, nor 
to the object of his trial ; being only extracts from ancient 
authors of high reputation, on the general rights of juries to 
consider the innocence as well as the guilt of the accused ; yet 
still, as the recollection of these rights was pressed forward 
with a mew to affect the proceedings, the proceedings were post- 
poned. 



TRIAL OF THOMAS PAINE. 335 

Is the defendant then to be the only exception to these admi- 
rable provisions? — Is the English law to judge him, stript of 
the armor with which its universal justice encircles all others? — 
Shall we, in the very act of judging him for detracting from 
the Enghsh government, furnish him with ample matter for just 
reprobation, instead of detraction 1 — Has not his cause been 
prejudged through a thousand channels ? — Has not the work 
before you been daily and publicly reviled, and his person held 
up to derision and reproach ? — Has not the public mind been 
excited, by crying down the very phrase and idea of the Rights 
of Man ? Nay, have not associations of gentlemen, I speak it 
with regret, because I am persuaded, from what I know of 
some of them, that they, amongst them at least, thought they 
were serving the public ;— yet have they not, in utter contempt 
and ignorance of that constitution of which they declare them- 
selves to be the guardians, pubhshed the grossest attacks upon 
the defendant ? — Have they not, even while the cause has been 
standing here for immediate trial, published a direct protest 
against the very work now before you ; advertising in the same 
paper, though under the general description of seditious libels, 
a reward on the conviction of any person who should dare to 
sell the book itself, to which their own publication was an an- 
swer ? — The Attorney General has spoken of a forced circu- 
lation of this work ; — but how have these prejudging papers 
been circulated ? — we all know how. They have been thrown 
into our carriages in every street ; — they have met us at every 
turnpike ; — and they lie in the areas of all our houses. To com- 
plete the triumph of prejudice, that high tribunal, of which I 
have the honor to be a member (my learned friends know what 
I say to be true,) has been drawn into this vortex of slander ; 
and some of its members, I must not speak of the House itself, 
have thrown the weight of their stations into the same scale. 
By all these means, I maintain that this cause has been pre- 
judged. 

It may be said, that I have made no motion to put off the 
trial for these causes, and that courts of themselves take no 
cognizance of what passes elsewhere, without facts laid before 
them. Gentlemen, I know that I should have had equal justice 
from the Court, if I had brought myself within the rule. But 
when should I have been better in the present aspect of things ? 
and I only remind you therefore of all these hardships, that 
you may recollect, that your judgment is to proceed upon that 
alone which meets you here, upon the evidence in the cause, and 
not upon suggestions destructive of every principle of justice. 

Having disposed of these foreign prejudices, I hope you will 
as little regard some arguments that have been offered to 



336 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH ON THE 

you in court. The letter which has been so repeatedly pressed 
upon you, ought to be dismissed even from your recollection. — 
I have already put it out of the question, as having been w^ritten 
long subsequent to the book, and as being a libel on the king, 
which no part of the information charges, and which may 
hereafter be prosecuted as a distinct offence. I consider that 
letter besides, and indeed have always heard it treated, as a 
forgery, contrived to injure the merits of the cause, and to 
embarrass me personally in its defence. I have a right so to 
consider it, because it is unsupported by anything similar at 
an earlier period. The defendant's whole deportment, previous 
to the publication, has been wholly unexceptionable : — he prop- 
erly desired to be given up as the author of the book, if any 
inquiry should take place concerning it ; and he is not affected 
in evidence, directly or indirectly, with any illegal or suspicious 
conduct; not even with having uttered an indiscreet or taunt- 
ing expression, nor with any one matter or thing, inconsistent 
with the duty of the best subject in England. His opinions 
indeed were adverse to our system ; — but I maintain that opin- 
ion is free, and that conduct alone is amenable to the law. 

You are next desired to judge of the author's mind and inten- 
tion, by the modes and extent of the circulation of his work. 
The FIRST Part of the Rights of Man, Mr. Attorney General 
tells you, he did not prosecute, although it was in circulation 
through the country for a year and a half together, because it 
seems it circulated only amongst what he styles the judicious 
part of the public, who possessed in their capacities and expe- 
rience an antidote to the poison ; but that with regard to the 
SECOND Part now before you, its circulation had been forced 
into every corner of society ; had been printed and reprinted 
for cheapness even upon whited brown paper, and had crept 
into the very nurseries of children, as a wrapper for their sweet- 
meats. 

In answer to this statement, which after all stands only upon 
Mr. Attorney General's own assertion, unsupported by any 
kind of proof (no witness having proved the author's personal 
interference with the sale,) I still maintain, that, if he had the 
most anxiously promoted it, the question would remain exactly 
THE SAME : the question would still be, whether at the time when 
Paine composed his work, and promoted the most extensive 
purchase of it, he believed or disbeheved what he had written, — 
and whether he contemplated the happiness or the misery of the 
English nation, to which it is addressed ; and whichever of 
these intentions may be evidenced to your judgments upon 
reading the book itself, I confess I am utterly at a loss to com- 
prehend how a writer can be supposed to mean something 



TRIAL OF THOMAS PAINE. 337 

different from what he has written, by proof of an anxiety 
(common I believe to all authors) that his work should be gen- 
erally read. Remember, I am not asking your opinions of the 
doctrines themselves ; — you have given them already pretty visi- 
bly since I began to address you ; — but I shall appeal not only 
to you, but to those who, without our leave, will hereafter 
judge, and without appeal, of all that we are doing to-day, — 
whether upon the matter which I hasten to lay before you, you 
can refuse to pronounce, that from his education — from the 
accidents and habits of his life — from the time and occasion of 
the publication — from the circumstances attending it — and from 
every line and letter of the work itself, and from all his other 
writings, his conscience and understanding {no matter whether 
erroneously or not) were deeply and solemnly impressed with the 
matters contained in his book, — that he addressed it to the 
reason of the nation at large, and not to the passions of individ- 
uals, — and that, in the issue of its influence, he contemplated 
only what appeared to him {though it may not to us) to be the 
interest and happiness of England, and of the whole human 
race. In drawing the one or the other of these conclusions, 
the book stands first in order, and it shall now speak for itself. 

The Attorney General throughout the whole course of his 
address to you (I knew it would be so,) has avoided the most 
distant notice or hint of any circumstance having led to the 
appearance of the author in the political world, after a silence 
of so many years : — he has not even pronounced, or even 
glanced at the name of Mr. Burke, — but has left you to take it 
for granted that the defendant volunteered this delicate and 
momentous subject, and, without being led to it by the provo- 
cation of political controversy, had seized a favorable moment 
to stigmatize, from mere malice, and against his own confirmed 
opinions, the constitution of this country. 

Gentlemen, my learned friend knows too well my respect and 
value for him to suppose that I am charging him with a wilful 
suppression; I know him to be incapable of it; he knew it 
would come from me ; he will permit me, however, to lament 
that it should have been left for me to inform you, at this late 
period of the cause, that not only the work before you, but the 
First Part, of which it is a natural continuation, were written 
avowedly and upon the face of them, m answer to Mr. Burke. 
They were written besides under circumstances to be explained 
hereafter, in the course of which explanation I may have oc- 
casion to cite a few passages from the works of that celebrated 
person. And I shall speak of him with the highest respect : — 
for, with whatever contempt he may delight to look down upon 
my humble talents, — however he may disparage the principles 

2 S 29 



338 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH ON THE 

which direct my public conduct, he shall never force me to for- 
get the regard which this country owes to him, for the writings 
which he has left upon record as an inheritance to our most 
distant posterity. After the gratitude which we owe to God 
for the divine gifts of reason and understanding, our next 
thanks are due to those from the fountains of whose enlightened 
minds they are fed and fructified : but pleading, as I do, the 
cause of freedom of opinions, I shall not give offence by re- 
marking that this great author has been thought to have changed 
some of his: and, if Thomas Paine had not thought so, I should 
not now be addressing you, because the book which is my sub- 
ject would never have been written. Who may be right and 
who in the wrong, in the contention of doctrines, I have re- 
peatedly disclaimed to be the question; I can only say that Mr. 
Paine may be right throughout, but that Mr. Burke cannot;. 
— Mr. Paine has been uniform in his opinions, but Mr. Burke 
HAS not; Mr. Burke can only be right in part; but, should Mr. 
Paine be even mistaken in the whole, still I am not removed 
from the principle of his defence. My defence has nothing to 
do with the rectitude of his doctrines. I admit Mr. Paine to 
be a republican ; — you shall soon see what made him one : — I 
do not seek to shade or qualify his attack upon our constitution ; 
I put my defence on no such matter, — he undoubtedly means 
to declare it to be defective in its forms, and contaminated with 
abuses, which, in his judgment, will one day or other bring on 
the ruin of us all : — it is in vain to mince the matter ; — this is 
the scope of his work. But still, if it contain no attack upon 
the King's Majesty, nor upon any other living magistrate ; — 
if it excite to no resistance to magistracy, but, on the contrary, 
if it even studiously inculcate obedience, then, whatever may 
be its defects, the question continues as before, and, ever must 
remain an unmixed question of the liberty of the press. I have 
therefore considered it as no breach of professional duty, nor 
injurious to the cause I am defending, to express my own ad- 
miration of the real principles of our constitution ; — a constitu- 
tion which I hope may never give way to any other, — a con- 
stitution which has been productive of many benefits, and 
which will produce many more hereafter, if we have wisdom 
enough to pluck up the weeds that grow in the richest soils and 
amongst the brightest flowers. I agree with the merchants of 
London, in a late declaration, that the English government is 
equal to the reformation of its own abuses ; and, as an inhabit- 
ant of the city, I would have signed it, if I had known, of my 
own knowledge, the facts recited in its preamble ; but abuses the 
English constitution unquestionably has, which call loudly for 
reformation, the existence of which has been the theme of our 



TRIAL OF THOMAS PAINE. 339 

greatest statesmen, which have too plainly formed the principles 
of the defendant, and may have led to the very conjuncture 
which produced his book. 

Gentlemen, we all but too well remember the calamitous 
situation in which our country stood but a few years ago, — ^a 
situation which no man can look back upon without horror, 
nor feel himself safe from relapsing into again, while the causes 
remain which produced it. The event I allude to you must 
know to be the American war, and the still existing causes of 
it, the corruptions of this government. — In those days, it was 
not thought virtue by the patriots of England to conceal the 
existence of them from the people ;— but then, as now, authority 
condemned them as disaffected subjects, and defeated the ends 
they sought by their promulgation. 

Gentlemen, in that great and calamitous conflict Edmund 
Burke and Thomas Paine fought in the same field of reason 
together ; but with very different successes. Mr. Burke spoke 
to a Parhament in England, such as Sir George Saville de- 
scribes it, having no ears but for sounds that flattered its cor- 
ruptions. Mr. Paine, on the other hand, spoke to a people ; — 
reasoned with them, — told them that they were bound by no 
subjection to any sovereignty, farther than their own benefit 
connected them ; and by these powerful arguments prepared 
the minds of the American people for that glorious, just, and 
haPpy revolution. 

Gentlemen, I have a right to distinguish it by these epithets, 
because I aver that at this moment there is as sacred a regard to 
property; — as inviolable a security to all the rights of individu- 
als ; — lower taxes ; — fewer grievances : — less to deplore, and 
more to admire, in the constitution of America, than that of 
any other country under heaven. I wish indeed to except our 
own, but I cannot even do that, till it shall be purged of those 
abuses which, though they obscure and deform the surface, 
have not as yet, tkank God, destroyed the vital parts. 

Why then is Mr. Paine to be calumniated, and reviled, be- 
cause, out of a people consisting of near three millions, he 
alone did not remain attached in opinion to a monarchy? Re- 
member, that all the blood which was shed in America, and to 
which he was for years a melancholy and indignant witness, 
was shed by the authority of the crown of Great Britain, under 
the influence of a Parhament, such as Sir George Saville has 
described it ; and such as Mr. Burke himself will be called upon 
by and by in more glowing colors to paint it. How then can 
it be wondered at, that Mr. Paine should return to this country 
in his heart a republican ? — Was he not equally a republican 
when be wrote Common Sense 1 — Yet that volume has been 



V 



340 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH ON THE 

sold without restraint or prosecution in every shop in England 
ever since, and which nevertheless {I appeal to the booh, which I 
have in Court, and vMch is in everybody's hands) contains every 
one principle of government, and every abuse in the British con- 
stitution, which is to be found in the Rights of Man. Yet Mr. 
Burke himself saw no reason to be alarmed at that publication, , 
nor to cry down its contents; even when America, which was| 
swayed by it, was in arms against the crown of Great Britain. 

Gentlemen, the consequences of this mighty revolution are 
too notorious to require illustration. Np audience would sit to 
hear (what everybody has seen and felt,) how the independence 
of America notoriously produced, not by remote and circuitous 
effect, but directly and palpably, the revolutions which now 
agitate Europe, and which portend such mighty changes over j 
the face of the earth. — Let governments take warning. — Thai 
revolution in France was the consequence of her incurably! 
corrupt and profligate government. God forbid that I should^ 
be thought to lean, by this declaration, upon her unfortunate 
monarch, — bending, perhaps at this moment, under afl^ictions , 
which my heart sinks within me to think of: — when I speak 
with detestation of the former politics of the French court, I * 
fasten as Httle of them upon that fallen and unhappy prince, as 
I impute to our gracious Sovereign the corruptions of our own. 
I desire, indeed, in the distinctest manner, to be understood that 
I mean to speak of his Majesty, not only with that obedience 
and duty which I owe to him as a subject, but with that justice 
which I think is du^ to him from all men who examine his con- 
duct either in public or private hfe. 

Gentlemen, Mr. Paine happened to be in England when the 
French revolution took place, and, notwithstanding what he 
must be supposed and allowed from his own history to have 
felt upon such a subject, he remained wholly silent and inactive. 
The people of this country, too, appeared to be indifferent spec- 
tators of the animating scene. They saw, without visible emo- 
tion, — despotism destroyed, and the King of France, by his 
own consent, become the first magistrate of a free people. 
Certainly, at least, it produced none of those effects which are 
so deprecated by government at present ; nor, most probably, 
ever would, if it had not occurred to the celebrated person 
whose name I must so often mention, voluntarily to provoke 
the subject : — a subject which, if dangerous to be discussed, 
HE should not have led to the discussion of: for, surely, it is 
not to be endured, that any private man shall pubHsh a creed 
for a whole nation ; — shall tell us that we are not to think for 
ourselves^ — shall impose his own fetters upon the human mind 
- — shall dogmatize at discretion — and yet that no man shall sit 

! 

1 



TRIAL OF THOMAS PAINE. 341 

down to answer him without being guilty of a libel. I assert, 
that if it be a libel to mistake our constitution — to attempt the 
support of it by means that tend to destroy it — and to choose 
the most dangerous season for doing so, Mr. Burke is that 
libeller ; but not therefore the object of a criminal prosecution : 
— whilst I am defending the motives of one man, I have neither 
right nor disposition to criminate the motives of another. All 
I contend for, is a fact that cannot be controverted, viz. that 
this officious interference was the origin of Mr. Paine' s book. I put 
my cause upon its being the origin of it — the avowed origin — 
as will abundantly appear from the introduction and preface to 
both Parts, and from the whole body of the work ; nay, from 
the very work of Mr. Burke himself, to which both of them 
are answers. 

For the history of that celebrated work, I appeal to itself. 

When the French revolution had arrived at some of its early 
stages, a few, and but a few persons, (not to be named when 
compared with the nation) took a visible interest in these mighty 
events ; — an interest w^ell worthy of Englishmen. They saw a 
pernicious system of government which had led to desolating 
wars, and had been for ages the scourge of Great Britain, giv- 
ing way to a system which seemed to promise harmony and 
peace amongst nations. They saw this with virtuous and 
peaceable satisfaction ; and a reverend divine, eminent for his 
eloquence, recollecting that the issues of life are in the hands of 
God, saw no profaneness in mixing the subject with pubHc 
thanksgiving ; — by reminding the people of this country of their 
own glorious deliverance in former ages. It happened also, 
that a society of gentlemen, France being then a neutral na- 
tion, and her own monarch swearing almost daily upon her 
altars to maintain the new constitution, thought they infringed 
no law by sending a general congratulation. Their numbers, 
indeed, were very inconsiderable ; so much so, that Mr. Burke, 
with more truth than wisdom, begins his volume with a sarcasm 
upon their insignificance : 

" Until very lately he had never heard of such a club. It 
certainly never occupied a moment of his thoughts: nor, he 
believed, those of any person out of their ow^n set.'* 

Why then make their proceedings the subject of alarm 
throughout England ? — There had been no prosecution against 
them, nor any charge founded even upon suspicion of disaffec- 
tion against any of their body. But Mr. Burke thought it 
was reserved for his eloquence to whip these curs of faction 
to their kennels. How he has succeeded, I appeal to all that 
has happened since the introduction of his schism in the British 
Empire, by giving to the King, whose title was questioned by no 

29* 



342 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH ON THE 

man, a title which it is his Majesty's most solemn interest to 
disclaim. 

After having, in his first work, lashed Dr. Price in a strain 
of eloquent irony for considering the monarchy to be elective, 
which he could not but know Dr. Price, in the literal sense of 
election, neither did nor could possibly consider it, Mr. Burke 
published a second treatise ; in which, after reprinting many 
passages from Mr. Paine's former work, he ridicules and denies 
the supposed right of the people to change their governments; 
in the following words : 

" The French revolution, say they,^^ (speaking of the English 
societies,) " was the act of the majority of the people ; and if 
the majority of any other people, the people of England for in- 
stance, wish to make the same change, they have the same 
right; just the same, undoubtedly; that is. None atalV 

And then, after speaking of the subserviency of will to duty, 
(in which I agree with him,) he, in a substantive sentence, 
maintains the same doctrine ; thus : 

" The constitution of a country being once settled upon some 
compact, tacit or expressed, there is no power existing of force 
to alter it, without the breach of the covenant, or the consent 
of all the parties. Such is the nature of the contract." 

So that if reason, or even revelation itself, were now to de- 
monstrate to us, that our constitution was mischievous in its 
effects, — if, to use Mr. Attorney General's expression, we had 
been insane for the many centuries we have supported it ; yet 
that still, if the King had not forfeited his title to the crown, 
nor the Lords their privileges, the universal voice of the people 
of England could not build up a new government upon a legiti- 
mate basis. 

Passing by, for the present, the absurdity of such a proposi- 
tion, and supposing it could, beyond all controversy, be main- 
tained ; for Heaven's sake, let wisdom never utter it ! Let 
policy and prudence for ever conceal it ! If you seek the sta- 
bility of the English government, rather put the book of Mr. 
Paine, which calls it bad, into every hand of the kingdom, than 
doctrines which bid human nature rebel even against that 
which is the best. — Say to the people of England, look at your 
constitution, there it lies before you — the work of your pious 
fathers,— handed down as a sacred deposit from generation to 
generation, — the result of wisdom and virtue, — and its parts 
cemented together with kindred blood ; there are, indeed, a few 
spots upon its surface ; but the same principle which reared the 
structure will brush them all away : — You may preserve your 
government — you may destroy it. — To such an address, what 
would be the answer 'I A chorus of the nation — Yes, we will 



TRIAL OF THOMAS PAINE. 343 

PRESERVE IT. But say to the same nation, even of the very 
same constitution, it is yours, such as it is, for better or for 
worse ; — it is strapped upon your backs, to carry it as beasts 
of burden, — ^you have no jurisdiction to cast it off. Let this be 
your position, and you instantly raise up (I appeal to every 
man's consciousness of his own nature) a spirit of uneasiness 
and discontent. It is this spirit alone, that has pointed most of 
the passages arraigned before you. 

But let the prudence of Mr. Burke's argument be what it 
may, the argument itself is untenable. His Majesty undoubt- 
edly was not elected to the throne. No man can be supposed, 
in the teeth of fact, to have contended for it ; — but did not the 
people of England elect King Wilham, and break the heredhary 
succession? — and does not his Majesty's title grow out of that 
election 1 — It is one of the charges against the defendant, his 
having denied the parhament which called the Prince of Orange 
to the throne to have been a legal convention of the whole 
people ; and is not the very foundation of that charge, that it 
was such a legal convention, and that it was intended to be' so? 
And if it was so, did not the people then confer the crown upon 
King William without any regard to hereditary right ? — Did 
they not cut off the Prince of Wales, who stood directly in the 
line of succession, and who had incurred no personal forfeiture? 
— Did they not give their deliverer an estate in the crown to- 
tally new and unprecedented in the law or history of the coun- 
try ? — And, lastly, might they not, by the same authority, have 
given the royal inheritance to the family of a stranger? — Mr. 
Justice Blackstone, in his Commentaries, asserts in terms that 
they might; and ascribes their choice of King William, and the 
subsequent limitations of the crown, not to want of jurisdic- 
tion, but to their true origin, to prudence and discretion in not 
disturbing a valuable institution farther than public safety and 
necessity dictated. 

Gentlemen, all that I have been stating hitherto, has been 
only to show, that there is not that novelty in the opinions of 
the defendant, as to lead you to think he does not bona fide en- 
tertain them, much less when connected with the history of his 
life, which I therefore brought in review before you. — But still 
the great question remains unargued — Had he a right to pro- 
mulgate these opinions ? If he entertained them, I shall argue 
that he had — And although my arguments upon the liberty of 
the press, may not to-day be honored with your, or the court's 
approbation, I shall retire not at all disheartened, consoling 
myself with the reflection, that a season may arrive for their 
reception. — The most essential liberties of mankind have been 
but slowly and gradually received, and so very late, indeed, do 



344 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH ON THE 

some of them come to maturity, that, notwithstanding the At- 
torney General tells you that the very question I am now agi- 
tating is most pecuharly for your consideration, as a jury, under 
our ANCIENT constitution, yet I must remind both you and mM 
that your jurisdiction "to consider and deal with it at all in judg- 
ment, is but A YEAR OLD. — Bcforc that late period, I ventured to 
maintain this very right of a jury over the question of Libel 
under the same ancient constitution (I do not mean before the 
noble judge now present, for the matter was gone to rest in the 
courts, long before he came to sit where he does, but) before a 
noble and reverend magistrate of the most exalted understand- 
ing, and of the most uncorrupted integrity; he treated me, not 
with contempt indeed, for of that his nature was incapable ; 
but he put me aside with indulgence, as you do a child while it 
is hsping its prattle out of season ; and if this cause had been 
tried then, instead of now, the defendant must have been in- 
stantly convicted on the proof of the publication, whatever you 
might have thought of his case. — Yet, I have lived to see it re- 
solved, by an almost unanimous vote of the whole parhament 
of England, that I had all along been in the right. — If this be 
not an awful lesson of caution concerning opinions, where are 
such lessons to be read ? 

Gentlemen, I have insisted, at great length, upon the origin 
of governments, and detailed the authorities which you have 
heard upon the subject, because I consider it to be not only an 
essential support, but the very foundation of the liberty of the 
press. If Mr. Burke be right in ms principles of government, 
I admit that the press, in my sense of its freedom, ought not to 
be free, nor free in any sense at all; and that all addresses to 
the people upon the subject of government, — and all specula- 
tions of amendment, of what kind or nature soever, are illegal 
and criminal ; — since, if the people have, without possible re- 
call, delegated all their authorities, they have no jurisdiction to 
act, and therefore none to think or write upon such subjects ; — 
and it would be a libel to arraign government or any of its acts, 
before those that have no jurisdiction to correct them. But on 
the other hand, as it is a settled rule in the law of England, 
that the subject may always address a competent jurisdiction ; 
no legal argument can shake the freedom of the press in my 
sense of it, if I am supported in my doctrines concerning the 
great unalienable right of the people, to reform or to change 
their governments. 

It is because the liberty of the press resolves itself into this 
great issue, that it has been, in every country, the last liberty 
which subjects have been able to wrest from power. — Other 
liberties are held under governments, but the liberty of opinion 



TRIAL OF THOMAS PAINE. 345 

keeps GOVERNMENTS THEMSELVES in due subjection to their du- 
ties. This has produced the martyrdom of truth in every age, 
and the world has been only purged from ignorance w^ith the 
innocent blood of those who have enlightened it. 

Gentlemen, my strength and time are wasted, — and I can 
only make this melancholy history pass like a shadow before 
you. 

1 shall begin with the grand type and example. 

The universal God of Nature, — the Savior of mankind, — 
the Fountain of all light, who came to pluck the world from 
eternal darkness, expired upon a cross, — the scoff of infidel 
scorn ; and his blessed Apostles followed him in the train of 
martyrs. When he came in the flesh, he might have come like 
the Mahometan Prophet, as a, powerful sovereign, and propa- 
gated his religion with an unconquerable sword, which even 
now, after the lapse of ages, is but slowly advancing under the 
influence of reason, over the face of the earth: — but such a 
process would have been inconsistent with his mission, v^hich 
was to confound the pride, and to estabHsh the universal rights 
of men ; — he came therefore in that lov^^ly state which is repre- 
sented in the Gospel, and preached his consolations to the poor. 

When the foundation of this religion was discovered to be 
invulnerable and immortal, we find political power taking the 
church into partnership ; — thus began the corruptions both of 
religious and civil power, and, hand in hand together, what 
havoc have they not made in the world ! — ruhng by ignorance 
and the persecution of truth: but this very persecution only 
hastened the revival of letters and liberty. Nay, you will find, 
that in the exact proportion that knowledge and learning have 
been beat down and fettered, they have destroyed the govern- 
- ments which bound them. — The Court of Star Chamber, the 
first restriction of the press of England, was erected, previous 
to all the great changes in the constitution. From that moment 
no man could legally write without an imprimatur from the 
state ; — but truth and freedom found their way with greater 
force through secret channels ; and the unhappy Charles, un- 
ivarned by a free press, was brought to an ignominious death. 
When men can freely communicate their thoughts and their 
sufferings, real or imaginary, their passions spend themselves 
in air, like gunpowder scattered upon the surface ; — but pent 
up by terrors, they work unseen, burst forth in a moment, and 
destroy everything in their course. Let reason be opposed to 
reason, and argument to argument, and every good govern- 
ment will be safe. 

The usurper Cromwell pursued the same system of restraint 

2 T 



346 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH ON THE 

in support of his government, and the end of it speedily fol- 
lowed. 

At the restoration of Charles the Second, the Star Chamber 
Ordinance of 1637, was worked up into an act of parliament, 
and was followed up during that reign, and the short one that 
followed it, by the most sanguinary prosecutions : — but what 
fact in history is more notorious, than that this blind and con- 
temptible policy prepared and hastened the revolution ? At that 
great era these cobwebs were all brushed away : — the freedom 
of the press was regenerated, — and the country, ruled by its 
affections, has since enjoyed a century of tranquillity and glory. 
Thus I have maintained, by Enghsh history, that, in proportion 
as the press has been free, Enghsh government has been secure. 

Gentlemen, the same important truth may be illustrated by 
great authorities. Upon a subject of this kind, resort cannot 
be had to law cases. The ancient law of England knew no- 
thing of such libels ; — they began, and should have ended, with 
the Star Chamber. What writings are slanderous of individuals, 
must be looked for where these prosecutions are recorded ; but 
upon general subjects we must go to general writers. If, indeed, 
I were to refer to obscure 'authors, I might be answered, that 
my very authorities were hbels, instead of justifications or ex- 
amples ; but this cannot be said with effect of great men, whose 
works are classics in our language, — taught in our schools, — 
and repeatedly printed under the eye of government. 

I shall begin with the poet Milton, a great authority in all 
learning. It may be said, indeed, he was a repubhcan, but that 
would only prove that republicanism is not incompatible with 
virtue ; — it may be said, too, that the work which I cite was 
written against previous hcensing, which is not contended for 
to-day. But, if every work were to be adjudged a libel, which 
was adverse to the wishes of government, or to the opinions 
of those who may compose it, the revival of a licenser would 
be a security to the pubhc. — If I present my book to a magis- 
trate appointed by law, and he rejects it, I have only to forbear 
from the publication ; — in the forbearance I am safe ; — and he 
too is answerable to law for the abuse of his authority. But, 
upon the argument of to-day, a man must print at his peril, 
without any guide to the principles of judgment, upon which 
his work may be afterwards prosecuted and condemned. Mil- 
ton's argument therefore applies, and was meant to apply, to 
every interruption to writing, which, while they oppress the 
individual, endanger the state. 

" We have them not," says Milton, " that can be heard of, 
from any ancient state, or polity, or church, nor by any statute 
left us by our ancestors, elder or later, nor from the modern 



TRIAL OF TPIOMAS PAINE. 347 

custom of any reformed city or church abroad ; but from the 
most antichristian council, and the most tyrannous inquisition 
that ever existed. Till then, books were ever as freely admit- 
ted into the world as any other birth; the issue of the brain was 
no more stifled than the issue of the womb. 

" To the pure all things are pure ; not only meats and drinks, 
but all kinds of knowledge whether good or evil ; the know- 
ledge cannot defile, nor consequently the books, if the will and 
conscience be not defiled. 

" Bad books serve in many respects to discover, to confute, 
to forewarn and to illustrate. Whereof, what better witness 
can we expect I should produce, than one of your own, now 
sitting in parUament, the chief of learned men reputed in this 
land, Mr. Selden, whose volume of natural and national laws, 
proves, not only by great authorities brought together, but by 
exquisite reasons and theorems almost mathematically demon- 
strative, that all opinions, yea errors known, read and collated, 
are of main service and assistance toward the speedy attain- 
ment of what is truest. 

" Opinions and understanding are not such wares as to be 
monopolized and traded in by tickets and statutes and standards. 
We must not think to make a staple commodity of all the know- 
ledge in the land, to mark and license it like our broadcloth and 
our wool-packs. 

" Nor is it to the common people less than a reproach ; for 
if we be so jealous over them that we cannot trust them with 
an English pamphlet, what do we but censure them, for a giddy, 
vicious, and ungrounded people ; in such a sick and weak state 
of faith and discretion, as to be able to take nothing down but 
through the pipe of a licenser? That this is care or love of them, 
we cannot pretend. 

" Those corruptions which it seeks to prevent, break in faster 
at doors which cannot be shut. To prevent men thinking and 
acting for themselves, by restraints on the press, is like to the 
exploits of that gallant man who thought to pound up the crows 
by shutting his park-gate. 

" This obstructing violence meets for the most part with an 
event, utterly opposite to the end which it drives at ; instead of 
suppressing books, it raises them, and invests them with a repu- 
tation : the punishment of wits enhances their authority, saith 
the Viscount St. Albans ; and a forbidden writing is thought to 
be a certain spark of truth, that flies up in the face of them who 
seek to tread it out." 

He then adverts to his visit to the famous Galileo, whom he 
found and visited in the Inquisition, " for not thinking in as- 
tronomy with the Franciscan and Dominican monks." And 



348 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH ON THE 

what event ought more deeply to interest and affect us ? The 
VERY LAWS OF NATURE woro to bend under the rod of a licen- 
ser; — this illustrious astronomer ended his life within the bars 
of a prison, because, in seeing the phases of Venus through his 
newly invented telescope, he pronounced that she shone with 
borrowed light, and from the sun as the centre of the universe. 
This was the mighty crime, the placing the sun in the centre : — 
that sun which now inhabits it upon the foundation of mathema- 
tical truth, which enables us to traverse the pathless ocean, and 
to carry our hne and rule amongst other worlds, which but for 
GaHleo we had never known, perhaps even to the recesses of 
an infinite and eternal God. 

Milton, then, in his most eloquent address to the Parliament, 
puts the liberty of the press on its true and most honorable 
foundation : 

" Believe it, lords and commons, they who counsel ye to such 
a suppression of books, do as good as bid you suppress your- 
selves ; and I will soon show how. 

" If it be desired to know the immediate cause of all this free 
writing and free speaking, there cannot be assigned a truer than 
your own mild, and free, and humane government. It is the 
liberty, lords and commons, which your own valorous and 
happy counsels have purchased us ; liberty, which is the nurse 
of all great wits : this is that which hath rarefied and enlight- 
ened our spirits like the influence of heaven ; this is that which 
hath enfranchised, enlarged, and hfted up our apprehensions, 
degrees above themselves. Ye cannot make us now less capa- 
ble, less knowing, less eagerly pursuing the truth, unless ye first 
make yourselves, that made us so, less the lovers, less the 
founders of our true liberty. We can grow ignorant again, 
brutish, formal, and slavish, as ye found us ; but you then must 
first become that which ye cannot be, oppressive, arbitrary, 
and tyrannous, as they were from whom ye have freed us. 
That our hearts are now more capacious, our thoughts now 
more erected to the search and expectation of greatest and 
exactest things, is the issue of our own virtue propagated in us. 
Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely ac- 
cording to conscience, above all liberties." 

But now every man is to be cried down for such opinions. I 
observed that my learned friend significantly raised his voice in 
naming Mr. Home Tooke, as if to connect him with Paine, or 
Paine with him. This is exactly the same course of justice ; — 
for after all, he said nothing of Mr. Tooke. What could he 
have said, but that he was a man of great talents, and a sub- 
scriber with the great names I have read in proceedings which 
they have thought fit to desert ? 



TRIAL OF THOMAS PAINE. 349 

Gentlemen, let others hold their opinions, and change them 
at their pleasure; I shall ever maintain it to be the dearest 
privilege of the people of Great Britain to watch over every- 
thing that affects their happiness, either in the system of gov- 
ernaient, or in the practice ; and that for this purpose the press 
MUST BE FREE. It has alw^ays been so, and much evil has been 
corrected by it. — If government finds itself annoyed by it, let 
it examine its own conduct, and it will find the cause, — let it 
amend it, and it will find the remedy. 

Gentlemen, I am no friend to sarcasms in the discussion of 
grave subjects, but you must take writers according to the 
view of the mind at the moment ; Mr. Burke as often as any- 
body indulges in it : — hear his reason in his speech on reform, 
for not taking away the salaries from lords who attend upon 
the 'British court. " You would," said he, "have the court de- 
serted by all the nobility of the kingdom. 

" Sir, the most serious mischiefs would follow from such a 
desertion. Kings are naturally lovers of low company ; they 
are so elevated above all the rest of mankind, that they must 
look upon all their subjects as on a level : they are rather apt to 
hate than to love their nobility on account of the occasional 
resistance to their will, which will be made by their virtue, their 
petulance, or their pride. It must indeed be admitted, that many 
of the nobility are as perfectly willing to act the part of flatter- 
ers, tale-bearers, parasites, pimps, and buffoons, as any of the 
lowest and vilest of mankind can possibly be. But they are 
not properly quahfied for this object of their ambition. The 
want of a regular education, and early habits, with some lurk- 
ing remains of their dignity, will never permit them to become 
a match for an ItaHan eunuch, a mountebank, a fiddler, a player, 
or any regular practitioner of that tribe. The Roman Empe- 
rors, almost from the beginning, threw themselves into such 
hands ; and the mischief increased every day, till its dechne, 
and its final ruin. It is, therefore, of very great importance 
(provided the thing is not overdone,) to contrive such an estab- 
lishment as must, almost whether a prince will or not, bring 
into daily and hourly offices about his person, a great number 
of his first nobihty ; and it is rather a useful prejudice that gives 
them a pride in such a servitude ; though they are not much 
the better for a court, a court will be much the better for them. 
I have, therefore, not attempted to reform any of the offices of 
honor about the king's person." 

What is all this but saying, that a king is an animal so incu- 
rably addicted to low company, as generally to bring on by it 
the ruin of nations; but nevertheless, he is to be kept as a 
necessary evil, and his propensities bridled by surrounding him 



jl 



350 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH ON THE Mff 

with a parcel of miscreants still worse if possible, but better 
than those he would choose for himself. This, therefore, if 
taken by itself, would be a most abominable and libellous sar- 
casm on kings and nobility ; but look at the whole speech, and 
you observe a great system of regulation ; and no man, I be- 
lieve, ever doubted Mr. Burke's attachment to monarchy. To 
judge, therefore, of any part of a writing, the whole must be 

READ. 

With the same view I will read to you the beginning of Har 
rington's Oceana : but it is impossible to name this well-known 
author without exposing to just contempt and ridicule the igno- 
rant or profligate misrepresentations which are vomited forth 
upon the pubhc, to bear down every man as desperately wicked, 
who, in any age or country, has countenanced a republic, for 
the mean purpose of prejudging this trial. 

Is this the way to support the EngHsh constitution ? — Are 
these the means by which Enghshmen are to be taught to 
cherish it ? — I say, if the man upon trial were stained with 
blood instead of ink, — if he were covered over with crimes 
which human nature would start at the naming of, the means 
employed against him would not be the less disgraceful. 

For this notable purpose, then, Harrington, not above a week 
ago, was handed out to us as a low, obscure wretch, involved in 
the murder of the monarch, and the destruction of the mon- 
archy, and as addressing his despicable works at the shrine of 
an usurper. Yet this very Harrington, this low blackguard, 
was descended (you may see his pedigree at the Herald's office 
for sixpence) from eight dukes, three marquisses, seventy earls, 
twenty-seven viscounts, and thirty-six barons, sixteen of whom 
were knights of the garter ; a descent which I think would save 
a man from disgrace in any of the circles of Germany. But 
what was he besides ? — a blood-stained ruffian ? — Oh brutal 
ignorance of the history of the country ! He was the most af- 
fectionate servant of Charles the First, from whom he never 
concealed his opinions ; for it is observed by Wood, that the 
king greatly affected his company ; but when they happened to 
talk of a commonwealth, he would scarcely endure it. — " I 
know not," says Toland, " which most to commend ; the king 
for trusting an honest man, though a repubUcan ; or Harring- 
ton for owning his principles while he served a king." 

But did his opinions affect his conduct ? — Let history again 
answer. — He preserved his fidelity to his unhappy prince to the 
very last, after all his fawning courtiers had left him to his en- 
raged subjects. He staid with him while a prisoner in the Isle 
of Wight ; — came up by stealth to follow the fortunes of his 
monarch and master ; — even hid himself in the boot of the 



TRIAL OF THOMAS PAINE. 351 

coach when he was conveyed to Windsor; — and ending as he 
began, fell into his arms and fainted on the scaffold. 

After Charles's death, the Oceana was written, and, as if it 
were written from justice and affection to his memory; for it 
breathes the same noble and spirited regard, and asserts that it 
was not Charles that brought on the destruction of the mon- 
archy, but the feeble and ill-constituted nature of monarchy 
itself. 

But the book was a flattery to Cromwell. — Once more and 
finally let history decide. — The Oceana was seized by the 
Usurper as a libel, and the way it was recovered is remarka- 
ble. I mention it to show that Cromwell was a wise man in 
himself, and knew^ on what governments must stand for their 
support. 

Harrington waited on the Protector's daughter to beg for his 
book, which her father had taken, and on entering her apart- 
ment, snatched up her child and ran away. — On her following 
him with surprise and terror, he turned to her and said, " I 
know what you feel as a mother, feel then for me : your father 
has got MY child :" meaning the Oceana. The Oceana was 
afterwards restored on her petition : Cromwell answering with 
the sagacity of a sound politician, "■ Let him have his book ; 
if my government is made to stand, it has nothing to fear from 
PAPER SHOT." — He said true. No good government will ever 
be battered by paper shot. Montesquieu says, " that in a free 
nation, it matters not whether individuals reason well or ill ; it 
is sufficient that they do reason. Truth arises from the colhsion, 
and from hence springs liberty, which is a security from the 
effect of reasoning." The Attorney General has read extracts 
from Mr. Adams's answer to this book. Let others write an- 
swers to it, like Mr. Adams ; I am not insisting upon the infal- 
libility of Mr. Paine's doctrines ; if they are erroneous, let them 
be answered, and truth will spring from the collision. 

Milton wisely says, that a disposition in a nation to this spe- 
cies of controversy, is no proof of sedition or degeneracy, but 
quite the reverse [1 omitted to cite the passage with the others.] 
In speaking of this subject, he rises into that inexpressibly sub- 
lime style of writing, wholly peculiar to himself. He was in- 
deed no plagiary from anything human : he looked up for light 
and expression, as he himself wonderfully describes it, by de- 
vout prayer to that great Being, who is the source of all utter- 
ance and knowledge ; and who sendeth out his seraphim with 
the hallowed fire of his altar to touch and purify the lips of 
whom he pleases. " When the cheerfulness of the people," says 
this mighty poet, " is so sprightly up, as that it hath not only 
wherewith to guard well its own freedom and safety, but to 



352 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH ON THE 

spare, and to bestow upon the solidest and sublimest points of 
controversy and new invention, it betokens us not degenerated 
nor drooping to a fatal decay, but casting off the old and 
wrinkled skin of corruption, to outlive these pangs and wax 
young again, entering the glorious ways of truth and prosperous 
virtue, destined to become great and honorable in these latter li 
ages. Methinks I see, in my mind, a noble and puissant nation! 
rousing herself, like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her 
invincible locks: methinks I see her as an eagle muing her 
mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full mid- 
day beam; purging and unscahng her long-abused sight at the r 
fountain itself of heavenly radiance; while the whole noise of fi 
timorous and flocking birds, with those also that love the twi- 
light, flutter about, amazed at what she means, and in their en- 
vious gabble would prognosticate a year of sects and schisms." r\ 

Gentlemen, what Milton only saw in his mighty imagination, ' 
I see in fact ; what he expected, but which never came to pass, 
I see now fulfiUing : methinks I see this noble and puissant na- 
tion, not degenerated and drooping to a fatal decay, but cast- 
ing off" the wrinkled skin of corruption to put on again the 
vigor of her youth. And it is, because others as well as my- 
self see this, that we have all this uproar. — France and its con- 
stitution are the mere pretences. It is, because Britons begin 
to recollect the inheritance of their own constitution, left them 
by their ance^stors : — it is, because they are awakened to the 
corruptions which have fallen upon its most valuable parts, that 
forsooth the nation is in danger of being destroyed by a single 
pamphlet. — I have marked the course of this alarm : it began 
with the renovation of those exertions for the public, which the 
alarmists themselves had originated and deserted; and they 
became louder and louder when they saw them avowed and 
supported by my admirable friend Mr. Fox; the most emi- 
nently honest and enlightened statesman, that history brings us 
acquainted with : a man whom to name is to honor, but whom 
in attempting adequately to describe, I must fly to Mr. Burke, 
my constant refuge when eloquence is necessary : — a man, w^ho 
to relieve the sufferings of the most distant nation, " put to the 
hazard his ease, his security, his interest, his power, even his 
darling popularity, for the benefit of a people whom he had 
never seen." How much more then for the inhabitants of his 
native country ! — yet this is the man who has been censured 
and disavowed in the manner we have lately seen. 

Gentlemen, I have but a few more words to trouble you with : 
I take my leave of you with declaring, that all this freedom 
which I have been endeavoring to assert, is no more than the 
ancient freedom which belongs to our own inbred constitution : 



TRIAL OF THOMAS PAINE. 353 

I have not asked you to acquit Thomas Paine upon any new 
hghts, or upon any principle but that of the law, which you are 
sworn to administer ; — my great object has been to inculcate, 
that wisdom and policy, which are the parents of the govern- 
ment of Great Britain, forbid this jealous eye over her subjects; 
and that, on the contrary, they cry aloud in the language of the 
poet, adverted to by lord Chatham on the memorable subject 
of America, unfortunately without effect. 

" Be to their faults a little blind, 
Be to their virtues very kind ; 
Let all their thoughts be unconfin'd, 
Nor clap your padlock on the mind." 

Engage the people by their affections, convince their reason, 
— and they will be loyal from the only principle that can make 
loyalty sincere, vigorous, or rational, — a conviction that it is 
their truest interest, and that their government is for their good. 
Constraint is the natural parent of resistance, and a pregnant 
proof, that reason is not on the side of those who use it. You 
must all remember Lucian's pleasant story; Jupiter and a 
countryman were walking together, conversing with great free- 
dom and familiarity upon the subject of heaven and earth. The 
countryman listened with attention and acquiescence, while 
Jupiter strove only to convince him : — but happening to hint a 
doubt, Jupiter turned hastily round and threatened him with his 
' thunder. — " Ah ! ah !" says the countryman, " now, Jupiter, I 
know that you are wrong ; you are always wrong when you 
appeal to your thunder." 

This is the case with me — I can reason with the people of 
England, but I cannot fight against the thunder of authority. 

Gentlemen, this is my defence of free opinions. With regard 
to myself, I am, and always have been, obedient and affection- 
ate to the law; — to that rule of action, as long as I exist, I shall 
^ ever do as I have done to-day, maintain the dignity of my high 
profession, and perform, as I understand them, all its important 
i duties. 

2U 30* 



SPEECH OF THE HON. T. ERSKINE, 

ON THE PROSECUTION OF THE 

PUBLISHER OF THE AGE OF REASON. 

Gentlemen of the Jury, 

The charge of blasphemy, which is put upon the record 
against the pubhsher of this pubhcation is not an accusation of 
the servants of the crown, but comes before you sanctioned by 
the oaths of a grand jury of the country. It stood for trial upon 
a former day; but it happening, as it frequently does, without 
any imputation upon the gentlemen named in the pannel, that a 
sufficient number did not appear to constitute a full special jury, 
I thought it my duty to withdraw the cause from trial, till I 
could have the opportunity of addressing myself to you, who 
were originally appointed to try it. 

I pursued this course, from no jealousy of the common juries 
appointed by the laws for the ordinary service of the court, 
since my whole life has been one continued experience of their 
virtues; but because I thought it of great importance, that those 
who were to decide upon a cause so very momentous to the 
public, should have the highest possible qualifications for the 
decision ; that they should not only be men capable from their 
educations of forming an enlightened judgment, but that their 
situations should be such as to bring them within the full view 
of their country, to which, in character and in estimation, they 
were in their own turns to be responsible. 

Not having the honor, gentlemen, to be sworn for the king as 
one of his counsel, it has fallen much oftener to my lot to de- 
fend indictments for libels, than to assist in the prosecution of 
them ; but I feel no embarrassment from that recollection. — I 
shall not be found to-day to express a sentiment, or to utter an 
expression, inconsistent with those invaluable principles for 
which I have uniformly contended irt the defence of others. 
Nothing that I have ever said, either professionally or person- 
ally, for the liberty of the press, do I mean to-day to contradict 
or counteract. On the contrary, I desire to preface the very 
short discourse I have to make to you, with reminding you, that 
it is your most solemn duty to take care that it suffers no injury 
in your hands. A free and unlicensed press, in the just and legal 
sense of the expression, has led to all the blessings both of religion 



SPEECH ON THE AGE OF REASON. 355 

and government, which Great Britain or any part of the world 
at this moment enjoys, and it is calculated to advance mankind 
to still higher degrees of civilization and happiness. — But this 
freedom, hke every other, must be limited to be enjoyed, and 
like every human advantage, may be defeated by its abuse. 

Gentlemen, the defendant stands indicted for having published 
this book, which I have only read from the obligations of pro- 
fessional duty, and which I rose from the reading of with aston- 
ishment and disgust. Standing here with all the privileges 
belonging to the highest counsel for the crown, I shah be enti- 
tled to reply to any defence that shall be made for the publica- 
tion. I shall wait with patience till I hear it. 

Indeed, if I were to anticipate the defence which I hear and 
read of, it would be defaming by anticipation the learned coun- 
sel who is to make it ; — since if I am to collect it, from a formal 
notice given to the prosecutors in the course of the proceedings, 
I have to expect, that, instead of a defence conducted accord- 
ing to the rules and principles of English law, the foundation of 
all our laws, and the sanctions of all justice, are to be struck at 
and insulted. What gives the court its jurisdiction? — What 
but the oath which his lordship, as well as yourselves, have 
sworn upon the Gospel to fulfil ? Yet in the king's court, where 
his majesty is himself also sworn to administer the justice of 
England — in the king's court — who receives his high authority 
under a solemn oath to maintain the Christian rehgion, as it is 
promulgated by God in the Holy Scriptures, I am nevertheless 
called upon as counsel for the prosecution to ^^ produce a certain 
hook described in. the Indictment to he the holy bible." No man 
deserves to be upon the rolls, who has dared, as an attorney, to 
put his name to such a notice. It is an insult to the authority 
and dignity of the court of which he is an officer; since it calls 
in question the very foundations of its jurisdiction. If this is to 
be the spirit and temper of the defence ; — if, as I collect from 
that array of books which are spread upon the benches behind 
me, this publication is to be vindicated by an attack of all the 
truths which the Christian rehgion promulgates to mankind, let 
it be remembered that such an argument was neither suggested 
nor justified by anything said by me on the part of the prose- 
cution. 

In this stage of the proceedings, I shall call for reference to 
the sacred Scriptures, not from their merits, unbounded as they 
are, but from their authority in a Christian country — not from 
the obligations of conscience, but from the rules of law. For 
my own part, gentlemen, I have been ever deeply devoted to 
the truths of Christianity ; and my firm belief in the Holy Gos- 
pel is by no means owing to the prejudices of education 



356 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH 

(though I was religiously educated by the best of parents,) but 
has arisen from the fullest and most continued reflections of my 
riper years and understanding. It forms at this moment the 
great consolation of a life, which, as a shadow, passes away ; 
and without it, I should consider my long course of health and 
prosperity (too long perhaps, and too uninterrupted, to be good 
for any man) only as the dust which the wind scatters, and 
rather as a snare than as a blessing. 

Much, however, as I wish to support the authority of Scrip- 
ture from a reasoned consideration of it, I shall repress that 
subject for the present. But if the defence, as I have suspected, 
shall bring them at all into argument or question, I must then 
fulfil a duty which I owe not only to the Court, as counsel for 
the prosecution, but to the public, and to the world, — to state 
what I feel and know concerning the evidences of that religion, 
which is denied without being examined, and reviled without 
being understood. 

I am well aware that by the communications of a free press, 
all the errors of mankind, from age to age, have been dissi- 
pated and dispelled ; and I recollect that the world, under the 
banners of reformed Christianity, has struggled through perse- 
cution to the noble eminence on which it stands at this moment, 
— shedding the blessings of humanity and science upon the 
nations of the earth. 

It maybe asked then by what means the Reformation would 
have been effected, if the books of the Reformers had been 
suppressed, and the errors of now exploded superstitions had 
been supported by the terrors of an unreformed state ? or how, 
upon such principles, any reformation, civil or religious, can in 
future be effected ? The solution is easy : — Let us examine 
what are the genuine principles of the liberty of the press, as 
they regard writings upon general subjects, unconnected with 
the personal reputations of private men, which are wholly for- 
eign to the present inquiry. They are full of simplicity, and 
are brought as near perfection, by the law of England, as, per- 
haps, is attainable by and of the frail institutions of mankind. 

Although every community must estabhsh supreme authori- 
ties, founded upon fixed principles, and must give high powers 
to magistrates to administer laws for the preservation of gov- 
ernment, and for the security of those who are to be protected 
by it: — yet, as infallibility and perfection belong neither to 
human individuals nor to human estabhshments, it ought to be 
the policy of all free nations, as it is most pecuKarly the prin- 
ciple of our own, to permit the most unbounded freedom of 
discussion, even to the detection of errors in the constitution 
of the very government itself; so as that common decorum is 



ON THE AGE OF REASON. 357 

observed, which every state must exact from its subjects, and 
which imposes no restraint upon any intellectual composition, 
fairly, honestly, and decently addressed to the consciences and 
understandings of men. Upon this principle, I have an unques- 
tionable right — a right which the best subjects have exercised 
— to examine the principles and structure of the constitution, 
and by fair, manly reasoning, to question the practice of its 
administrators. I have a right to consider and to point out 
errors in the one or in the other ; and not merely to reason 
upon their existence, but to consider the means of their reform- 
ation. 

By such free, well-intentioned, modest, and dignified commu- 
nication of sentiments and opinions, all nations have been grad- 
ually improved, and milder laws and purer religions have been 
established. The same principles, which vindicate civil con- 
troversies, honestly directed, extend their protection to the 
sharpest contentions on the subject of religious faiths. This 
rational and legal course of improvement was recognized and 
ratified by Lord Kenyon as the law of England, in a late trial 
at Guildhall, where he looked back with gratitude to the labors 
of the Reformers, as the fountains of our religious emancipa- 
tion, and of the civil blessings that followed in their train. The 
Enghsh constitution, indeed, does not stop short in the tolera- 
tion of religious opinions, but liberally extends it to practice. 
It permits every man, even publicly, to worship God accord- 
ing to his own conscience, though in marked dissent from the 
national establishment, — so as he professes the general faith, 
which is the sanction of all our moral duties, and the only 
pledge of our submission to the system which constitutes the 
state. 

Is not this freedom of controversy and freedom of worship, 
sufficient for all the purposes of human happiness and improve- 
ment ? — Can it be necessary for either, that the law should hold 
out indemnity to those, who wholly abjure and revile the gov- 
ernment of their country, or the rehgion on which it rests for 
its foundation ? I expect to hear, in answer to what I am now 
saying, much that will offend me. My learned friend, from the 
difficulties of his situation, which I know, from experience, how 
to feel for very sincerely, may be driven to advance proposi- 
tions which it may be my duty, with much freedom, to reply to ; 
— and the law will sanction that freedom. — But will not the 
ends of justice be completely answered by my exercise of that 
right, in terms that are decent, and calculated to expose its 
defects? — Or will my argument suffer, or will public justice be 
impeded, because neither private honor and justice, nor pubhc 
decorum, would endure my telling my very learned friend, be^ 



358 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH 

cause I differ from him in opinion, that he is a fool, — a liar, — 
and a scoundrel, in the face of the Court ? This is just the 
distinction between a book of free legal controversy, and the 
book which I am arraigning before you. Every man has a 
right to investigate, with decency, controversial points of the 
Christian religion ; — but no man, consistently with a law which 
only exists under its sanctions, has a right to deny its very 
existence, and to pour forth such shocking and insulting invec- 
tives, as the lowest estabHshments in the gradations of civil 
authority ought not to be subjected to, and which soon would 
be borne down by insolence and disobedience, if they were. 

The same principle pervades the whole system of the law, 
not merely in its abstract theory, but in its daily and most ap- 
plauded practice. — The intercourse between the sexes, which, 
properly regulated, not only continues, but humanizes and 
adorns our natures, is the foundation of all the thousand 
romances, plays, and novels, which are in the hands of everybody. 
Some of them lead to the confirmation of every virtuous prin- 
ciple ; — others, though with the same profession, address the 
imagination in a manner to lead the passions into dangerous 
excesses : — but though the law does not nicely discriminate the 
various shades which distinguish these works from one another, 
so as to suffer many to pass, through its liberal spirit, that upon 
principle ought to be suppressed, would it, or does it tolerate, 
or does any decent man contend that it ought to pass by un- 
punished, libels of the most shameless obscenity, manifestly 
pointed to debauch innocence, and to blast and poison the 
morals of the rising generation ? This is only another illus- 
tration to demonstrate the obvious distinction between the work 
of an author, who fairly exercises the powers of his mind, in 
investigating the religion or government of any country, and 
him who attacks the rational existence of every religion or 
government, and brands with absurdity and folly the state 
which sanctions, and the obedient tools who cherish the delu- 
sion. But this publication appears to me to be as cruel and 
mischievous in its effects, as it is manifestly illegal in its princi- 
ples ; because it strikes at the best — sometimes, alas ! the only 
refuge and consolation amidst the distresses and afflictions of 
the world. The poor and humble, whom it affects to pity, 
may be stabbed to the heart by it. — They have more occasion 
for firm hopes beyond the grave, than the rich and prosperous, 
who have other comforts to render life delightful. I can con- 
ceive a distressed but virtuous man, surrounded by his children, 
looking up to him for bread when he has. none to give them ; — 
sinking under the last day's labor, and unequal to the next, — 
yet, still supported by confidence in the hour when all tears 



ON THE AGE OF REASON. 359 

shall be wiped from the eyes of affliction, bearing the burden 
laid upon him by a mysterious Providence which he adores, 
and anticipating with exultation the revealed promises of his 
Creator, when he shall be greater than the greatest, and hap- 
pier than the happiest of mankind. What a change in such a 
mind might be wrought by such a merciless pubhcation !■ — Gen- 
tlemen ! whether these remarks are the overcharged declama- 
tion of an accusing counsel, or the just reflections of a man 
anxious for the pubhc happiness, which is best secured by the 
morals of a nation, will be soon settled by an appeal to the 
passages in the work, that are selected by the Indicment for 
your consideration and judgment. You are at liberty to con-' 
nect them with every context and sequel, and to bestow upon 
them the mildest interpretation. [Here Mr. Erskine read and 
commented upon several of the selected passages, and then proceeded 
as follows :] 

Gentlemen, it would be useless and disgusting to enumerate 
the other passages within the scope of the Indictment. How 
any man can rationally vindicate the pubhcation of such a 
book, in a country where the Christian religion is the very 
foundation of the law of the land, I am totally at a loss to con- 
ceive, and have no ideas for the discussion of. How is a tri- 
bunal, whose whole jurisdiction is founded upon the solemn 
belief and practice of what is here denied as falsehood, and 
reprobated as impiety, to deal with such an anomalous defence ? 
— Upon what principle is it even offered to the Court, whose 
authority is contemned and mocked at? — If the rehgion pro- 
posed to be called in question, is not previously adopted in 
belief and solemnly acted upon, what authority, has the Court 
to pass any judgment at all of acquittal or condemnation ? — 
Why am I now, or upon any other occasion, to submit to his 
Lordship's authority? — Why am I now, or at any time, to 
address twelve of my equals, as I am now addressing you, with 
reverence and submission? — Under what sanction are the wit- 
nesses to give their evidence, without which there can be no 
trial ? — Under what obligations can I call upon you, the Jury 
representing your country, to administer justice? — Surely upon 
no other than that you are sworw to administer it under the 
OATHS YOU HAVE TAKEN. The wholc judicial fabric, from the 
King's sovereign authority to the lowest office of magistracy, 
has no other foundation. The whole is built, both in form and 
substance, upon the same oath of every one of its ministers to 
do justice, as God shall help them hereafter ? What God ? 
and WHAT hereafter ? That God, undoubtedly, who has com- 
manded Kings to rule, and Judges to decree justice ; — who has 
said to witnesses, not only by the voice of nature, but in re- 



360 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH 

vealed commandments — thou shalt not bear false testimony 
AGAINST thy NEIGHBOR ;— and who has enforced obedience to 
them by the revelation of the unutterable blessings which shall 
attend their observance, and the awful punishments which shall 
await upon their transgressions. 

But it seems this is an age of reason, and the time and the 
person are at last arrived, that are to dissipate the errors which 
have overspread the past generations of ignorance. The be- 
lievers in Christianity are many, but it belongs to the few that 
are wise to correct their credulity. Belief is an act of reason, 
and superior reason may, therefore, dictate to the weak. In 
•running the mind along the long list of sincere and devout 
Christians, I cannot help lamenting, that Newton had not lived 
to this day, to have had his shallowness filled up with this new 
flood of light. — But the subject is too awful for irony. I will 
speak plainly and directly. Newton was a Christian ! — Newton, 
whose mind burst forth from the fetters fastened by nature 
upon our finite conceptions^ — Newton, whose science was truth, 
and the foundation of whose knowledge of it was Philosophy 
— not those visionary and arrogant presumptions, which too 
often usurp its name, but philosophy resting upon the basis of 
mathematics, which like figures cannot lie — Newton, who car- 
ried the line and rule to the uttermost barriers of creation, and 
explored the principles by which all created matter exists, and 
is held together. But this extraordinary man, in the mighty 
reach of his mind, overlooked, perhaps, the errors, which a 
minuter investigation of the created things on this earth might 
have taught him. What shall then be said of the great Mr. 
Boyle, who looked into the organic structure of all matter, 
even to the inanimate substances which the foot treads upon ? 
— Such a man may be supposed to have been equally quahfied 
with Mr. Paine to look up through nature to nature's God. 
Yet the result of all his contemplations was the most confirmed 
and devout belief in all which the other holds in contempt, as 
despicable and drivelling superstition. — But this error might, 
perhaps, arise from a want of due attention to the foundations 
of human judgment, and the structure of that understanding 
which God has given us for the investigation of truth. — Let 
that question be answered by Mr. Locke, who, to the highest 
pitch of devotion and adoration, was a Christian — Mr. Locke, 
whose office was to detect the errors of thinking, by going up 
to the very fountains of thought, and to direct into the proper 
tract of reasoning, the devious mind of man, by showing him 
its whole process, from the first perceptions of sense to the last 
conclusions of ratiocination : — putting a rein upon false opinion, 
by practical rules for the conduct of human judgment. 



ON THE AGE OF REASON. 361 

But these men, it may be said, were only deep thinkers, and 
lived in their closets, unaccustomed to the traffic of the world, 
and to the laws which practically regulate mankind. Gentle- 
men ! in the place where we now sit to administer the justice 
of this great country, the never-to-be-forgotten Sir Matthew 
Hale presided ; — whose faith in Christianity is an exalted com- 
mentary upon its truth and reason, and whose life was a glori- 
ous example of its fruits ; — whose justice, drawn from the pure 
fountain of the Christian dispensation, will be, in all ages, a 
subject of the highest reverence and admiration. Btft it is said 
by the author, that the Christian fable is but the tale of the 
more ancient superstitions of the world, and may be easily de- 
tected by a proper understanding of the mythologies of the 
Heathens. — Did Milton understand those mythologies ? — Was 
he less versed than Mr. Paine in the superstitions of the world ? 
No, — they were the subject of his immortal song; and though 
shut out from all recurrence to them., he poured them forth 
from the stores of a memory rich with all that man ever knew, 
and laid them in their order as the illustration of real and ex- 
alted faith, the unquestionable source of that fervid genius 
■which has cast a kind of shade upon all the other works of 
man — 

He pass'd the bounds of flaming space, 
Where angels tremble while they gaze — 
He saw, — till blasted with excess of light, 
He clos'd his eyes in endless night. 

But it was the light of the body only that was extinguished ; 
" The CELESTIAL LIGHT shonc inward, and enabled him to jus- 
tify the ways of God to man." — The result of his thinking was 
nevertheless not quite the same as the author's before us. The 
mysterious incarnation of our blessed Savior (which this work 
blasphemes in words so wholly unfit for the mouth of a Chris- 
tian, or for the ear of a court of justice, that I dare not, and 
will not, give them utterance,) Milton made the grand conclu- 
sion of his Paradise Lost, the rest from his finished labors, and 
the ultimate hope, expectation, and glory of the world. 

A Virgin is his Mother, but his Sire, 

The power of the Most High ; — he shall ascend 

The throne hereditary, and bound his reign 

With earth's wide bounds, his glory with the heavens. 

The immortal poet having thus put into the mouth of the 
angel the prophecy of man's redemption, follows it with that 
solemn and beautiful admonition, addressed in the Poem to our 
great first parent, but intended as an address to his posterity 
through all generations : 

2V 31 



362 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH 

This having learn'd, thou hast attain'd the sum 
Of wisdom ; hope no higher, though all the stars 
Thou knew'st by name, and all th' ethereal pow'rs, 
All secrets of the deep, all Nature's works ; 
Or works of God in heav'n, air, earth or sea, 
And all the riches of this world enjoy'st, 
And all the rule, one empire ; only add 
Deeds to thy knowledge answerable, add faith, 
Add virtue, patience, temperance, add love, 
By name to come call'd Charity, the soul 
Of all the rest : then wilt thou not be loth 
T^ leave this Paradise, but shalt possess 
A Paradise within thee, happier far. 

Thus yoQ find all that is great, or wise, or splendid, or illus- 
trious, amongst created beings ; — all the minds gifted beyond 
ordinary nature, if not inspired by its universal Author for the 
advancement and dignity of the w^orld, though divided by dis- 
tant ages, and by clashing opinions, yet joining as it were in 
one subUme chorus, to celebrate the truths of Christianity, and 
laying upon its holy altars the never-fading offerings of their 
immortal wisdom. 

Against all this concurring testimony, we find suddenly, from 
the author of this book, that the Bible teaches nothing but 
" LIES, OBSCENITY, CRUELTY, and INJUSTICE." Had hc ever read 
our Savior's sermon on the Mount, in which the great principles 
of our faith and duty are summed up ? — Let us all but read and 
practise it ; and lies, obscenity, cruelty, and injustice, and all 
human wickedness, will be banished from the world ! 

Gentlemen, there is but one consideration more, which I can- 
not possibly omit, because I confess it aflfects me very deeply. 
The author of this book has written largely on pubhc liberty 
and government ; and this last performance, which I am now 
prosecuting, has, on that account, been more widely circulated, 
and principally among those who attached themselves from 
principle to his former works. This circumstance renders a 
public attack upon all revealed religion from such a writer infi- 
nitely more dangerous. The religious and moral sense of the 
•people of Great Britain is the great anchor, which alone can 
hold the vessel of the state amidst the storms which agitate the 
world ; and if the mass of the people were debauched from the 
principles of religion, — the true basis of that humanity, charity, 
and benevolence, which have been so long the national char- 
acteristic ; instead of mixing myself, as I sometimes have done, 
in political reformations, — I would retire to the uttermost cor- 
ners of the earth, to avoid their agitation; and would bear, not 
only the imperfections and abuses complained of in our own 
wise establishment, but even the worst government that ever 



ON THE AGE OF REASON. 863 

existed in the world, rather than go to the work of reformation 
with a multitude set free from all the charities of Christianity, 
who had no other sense of God's existence, than was to be col- 
lected from Mr. Paine's observation of nature, which the mass 
of mankind have no leisure to contemplate ; — which promises 
no future rewards, to animate the good in the glorious pursuit 
of human happiness, nor punishments to deter the wicked from 
destroying it even in its birth. The people of England are a 
religious people, and, with the blessing of God, so far as it is 
in my power, I will lend my aid to keep them so. 

I have no objections to the most extended and free discussions 
upon doctrinal points of the Christian religion ; and though the 
law of England does not permit it, I do not dread the reasonings 
of Deists against the existence of Christianity itself, because, as 
was said by its divine Author, if it be of God it will stand. An 
intellectual book, however erroneous, addressed to the intellec- 
tual world upon so profound and complicated a subject, can 
never work the mischief which this indictment is calculated to 
repress. Such works will only incite the minds of men enlight- 
ened by study, to a deeper investigation of a subject well worthy 
of their deepest and continued contemplation. The powers of 
the mind are given for human improvement in the progress of 
human existence. The changes produced by such reciproca- 
tions of lights and intelligences are certain in their progressions, 
and make their way imperceptibly, by the final and irresistible 
power of truth. If Christianity be founded in falsehood, let us 
become Deists in this manner, and I am contented. — But this 
book has no such object, and no such capacity : — it presents no 
arguments to the wise and enlightened. On the contrary, it 
treats the faith and opinions of the wisest with the most shocking 
contempt, and stirs up men, without the advantages of learning, 
or sober thinking, to a total disbelief of everything hitherto held 
sacred ; and consequently to a rejection of all the laws and ordi- 
nances of the state, which stand only upon the assumption of 
their truth. 

Gentlemen,! cannot conclude without expressing the deepest 
regret at all attacks upon the Christian religion by authors who 
profess to promote the civil liberties of the world. For under 
what other auspices than Christianity have the lost and sub- 
verted liberties of mankind in former ages been reasserted ? — 
By what zeal, but the warm zeal of devout Christians, have 
English Hberties been redeemed and consecrated? — Under what 
other sanctions, even in our own days, have liberty and happi- 
ness been spreading to the uttermost corners of the earth ? — 
What work of civilization, what commonwealth of greatness, 



364 ERSKINE'S SPEECH ON THE AGE OF REASON. 

has this bald religion of nature ever established ? — ^We see, on 
the contrary, the nations that have no other light than that of 
nature to direct them, sunk in barbarism, or slaves to arbitrary- 
governments ; v^hilst, under the Christian dispensation, the great 
career of the v^orld has been slowly, but clearly advancing, — 
lighter at every step, from the encouraging prophecies of the 
Gospel, and leading, I trust, in the end, to universal and eternal 
happiness. Each generation of mankind can see but a few 
revolving links of this mighty and mysterious chain; but by 
doing our several duties in our allotted stations, we are sure 
that we are fulfilling the purposes of our existence. — You, I 
trust, will fulfil YOURS this day. 



I 



MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH, 

IN MARKAM vs. FAWCETT, BEFORE THE DEPUTY SHERIFF OF MIDDLE- 
SEX AND A SPECIAL JURY, UPON AN INQUISITION OF DAMAGES. 

Mr. Sheriff, and Gentlemen of the Jury — In representing the 
unfortunate gentleman who has sustained the injury which has 
been stated to you by my learned friend, Mr. Holroyd, who 
opened the pleadings, I feel one great satisfaction — a satisfac- 
tion founded, as I conceive, on a sentiment perfectly constitu- 
tional. — I am about to address myself to men whom I person- 
ally know; — to men, honorable in their lives, — moral, — ^judi- 
cious ; and capable of correctly estimating the injuries they 
are called upon to condemn in their character of jurors. Tms, 
Gentlemen, is the only country in the world, where there is 
such a tribunal as the one before which I am now to speak : 
for, however in other countries such institutions as our own 
may have been set up of late, it is only by that maturity which 
it requires ages to give to governments — by that progressive 
wisdom which has slowly ripened the Constitution of our coun- 
try, that it is possible there can exist such a body of men as 
YOU are. It is the great privilege of the subjects of England 
that they judge one another. — It is to be recollected, that, al- 
though we are in this private room, all the sanctions of justice 
are present. — It makes no manner of differe.nce, whether I ad- 
dress you in the presence of the under-sheriff, your respectable 
chairman, or with the assistance of the highest magistrate of 
the state. 

The defendant has, on this occasion, suffered judgment by 
default: — other adulterers have done so before him. Some 
have done so under the idea, that, by suffering judgment against 
them, they had retired from the public eye — from the awful 
presence of the judge; and that they came into a corner, 
where there was not such an assembly of persons to witness 
their misconduct, and where it was to be canvassed before 
persons, who might be less qualified to judge the case to be ad- 
dressed to them. 

It is not long, however, since such persons have had an op- 
portunity of judging how much they were mistaken in this 
respect : the largest damages, in cases of adultery, have been 
given in this place. — By this place, I do not mean the particu- 
lar room in which we are now assembled, but under inquisitions 

31* 



366 MR, ERSKINE'S SPEECH 

directed to the Sheriff; and the instances to which I allude, are 
of modern, and, indeed, recent date. 

Gentlemen, after all the experience I have had, I feel myself 
I confess, considerably embarrassed in what manner to address 
you. There are some subjects that harass and overwhelm the 
mind of man. — There are some kinds of distresses one knows 
not how to deal with. — It is impossible to contemplate the situa- 
tion of the Plaintiff without being disqualified, in some degree, 
to represent it to others with effect. — It is no less impossible 
for you, Gentlemen, to receive on a sudden the impressions 
which have been long in my mind, without feeling overpowered 
with sensations, which, after all, had better be absent, when 
men are called upon, in the exercise of duty, to pronounce a 
legal judgment. 

The plaintiff is the third son of his grace the Archbishop of 
York, a clergyman of the Church of England ; presented in 
the year 1791, to the living of Stokeley, in Yorkshire; and 
now, by his majesty's favor, Dean of the Cathedral of York. — 
He married, in the year 1789, Miss Sutton, the daughter of vSir 
Richard Sutton, Bart, of Norwood, in Yorkshire, a lady of 
great beauty and accomplishments, most virtuously educated, 
and who, but for the crime of the defendant which assembles 
you here, would, as she has expressed it herself, have been the 
happiest of womankind. This gentleman having been present- 
ed, in 1791, by his father to this hving, where I understand 
there had been no resident Rector for forty years, set an ex- 
ample to the Church and to the public, which was peculiarly 
virtuous in a man circumstanced as he was ; for, if there can 
be any person more likely than another to protect himself se- 
curely with privileges and indulgences, it might be supposed to 
be the son of the metropolitan of the province. This gentle- 
man, however, did not avail himself of the advantage of his 
birth and station : for, although he was a very young man, he 
devoted himself entirely to the sacred duties of his profession ; 
— at a large expense he repaired the Rectory-house for the re- 
ception of his family, as if it had been his own patrimony, 
whilst, in his extensive improvements, he adopted only those 
arrangements which were calculated to lay the foundation of 
an innocent and peaceful life. — He had married this lady, and 
entertained no other thought than that of cheerfully devoting 
himself to all the duties, pubHc and private, which his situation 
called upon him to perform. 

About this time, or soon afterwards, the defendant became 
the purchaser of an estate in the neighborhood of Stokeley, 
and, by such purchase, an inhabitant of that part of the coun- 
try, and the neighbor of this unfortunate gentleman. It is a 



FOR THE REV. MR. MARKHAM. 367 

most affecting circumstance, that the plaintiff and the defend- 
ant had been bred together at Westminster School ; and in my 
mind it is still more affecting, when I reflect what it is which 
has given to that school so much rank, respect, and illustration. 
— It has derived its highest advantages from the reverend 
father of the unfortunate gentleman whom I represent. — It was 
the School of Westminster which gave birth to that learning 
which afterwards presided over it, and advanced its character. 
— However some men may be disposed to speak or write con- 
cerning public schools, I take upon me to say, they are among 
the wisest of our institutions; — whoever looks at the national 
character of the Enghsh people, and compares it with that of 
all the other nations upon the earth, will be driven to impute it 
to that reciprocation of ideas and sentiments which fill and 
fructify the mind in the early period of youth, and to the affec- 
tionate sympathies and friendships which rise up in the human 
heart before it is deadened or perverted by the interests and 
corruptions of the world. These youthful attachments are 
proverbial, and indeed few instances have occurred of any 
breaches of them ; because a man, before he can depart from 
the obligations they impose, must have forsaken every princi- 
ple of virtue, and every sentiment of manly honor. When, 
therefore, the plaintiff found his old school-fellow and compan- 
ion settled in his neighborhood, he immediately considered him 
as his brother. Indeed he might well consider him as a bro- 
ther, since, after having been at Westminster, they were again 
thrown together in the same College at Oxford ; so that the 
friendship they had formed in their youth, became cemented 
and consolidated upon their first entrance into the world. — It 
is no wonder, therefore, that when the defendant came down 
to settle in the neighborhood of the plaintiff, he should be at- 
tracted towards him by the impulse of his former attachment : 
he recommended him to the Lord Lieutenant of the County, 
and, being himself a magistrate, he procured him a share in 
the magistracy. — He introduced him to the respectable circle 
of his acquaintances ; he invited him to his house, and cherish- 
ed him there as a friend. It is this which renders the business 
of to-day most affecting as it regards the plaintiff, and wicked 
in the extreme as it relates to the defendant, because the confi- 
dences of friendship conferred the opportunities of seduction. 
— The plaintiff had no pleasures or affections beyond the 
sphere of his domestic life ; and except on his occasional resi- 
dences at York, which were but for short periods, and at a 
very inconsiderable distance from his home, he constantly re- 
posed in the bosom of his family. — I believe it will be impos- 
sible for my learned friend to invade his character; on the 



368 MR. ERSKINE'S SPEECH 

contrary, he will be found to have been a pattern of conjugal 
and parental affection. 

Mr. Fawcett being thus settled in the neighborhood, and thus 
received by Mr. Markam as his friend and companion, it is 
needless to say he could harbor no suspicion that the defendant 
was meditating the seduction of his wife : — there was nothing 
indeed, in his conduct, or in the conduct of the unfortunate 
lady, that could administer any cause of jealousy to the most 
guarded or suspicious temper. Yet dreadful to relate, and it 
is, indeed, the bitterest evil of which the plaintiff has to com- 
plain, a criminal intercourse for nearly five years before the 
discovery of the connexion had most probably taken place. 

I will leave you to consider what must have been the feelings 
of such a husband, upon the fatal discovery that his wife, and 
such a wife, had conducted herself in a manner that not merely 
deprived him of her comfort and society, but placed him in a 
situation too horrible to be described. If a man without chil- 
dren is suddenly cut off by an adulterer from all the comforts 
and happiness of marriage, the discovery of his condition is 
happiness .itself when compared with that to which the plaintiff 
is reduced. When children, by a woman, lost for ever to the 
husband, by the arts of the adulterer, are begotten in the un- 
suspected days of virtue and happiness, there remains a conso- 
lation ; mixed indeed, with the most painful reflections, yet a 
consolation still. — But what is the plaintiff's situation? — He 
does not know at what time this heavy calamity fell upon him 
— he is tortured with the most afflicting of all human sensa- 
tions. — ^When he looks at the children, whom he is by law 
bound to protect and to provide for, and from whose existence 
he ought to receive the delightful return which the union of in- 
stinct ^nd reason has provided for the continuation of the world, 
he knows not whether he is lavishing his fondness and affection 
upon his own children, or upon the seed of a villain sown in 
the bed of his honor and his delight. — He starts back with hor- 
ror, when, instead of seeing his own image reflected from their 
infant features, he thinks he sees the destroyer of his happiness 
— a midnight robber introduced into his* house, under profes- 
sions of friendship and brotherhood — a plunderer, not in the 
repositories of his treasure which may be supplied, or lived 
without, " hut there where he had garnered up his hopes, where 
either he must live or bear no life.^' 

In this situation, the plaintiff brings his case before you, and 
the defendant attempts no manner of defence : he admits his 
guilt, — he renders it unnecessary for me to go into any proof 
of it ; and the only question, therefore, that remains, is for you 
to say what shall be the consequences of his crime, and what 



FOR THE REV. MR. MARKHAM. 369 

verdict you will pronounce against him. You are placed, there- 
fore, in a situation most momentous to the public ; you have a 
duty to discharge, the result of which, not only deeply affects 
the present generation, but which remotest posterity will con- 
template to your honor or dishonor. — On your verdict it depends 
whether persons of the description of the defendant, who have 
cast off all respect for rehgion, who laugh at morality, when 
it is opposed to the gratification of their passions, and who are 
c